Saturday, December 17, 2011
Sens Saturday Shocker - Rundblad Traded For Turris
I thought Saturday would be a fine day to relax and get away from the game for a day. WRONG.
Ottawa traded young defenseman David Rundblad and a 2012 second-rounder to Phoenix for 22 year old center and recent contract holdout Kyle Turris.
As I now battle to keep the Saturday morning pancakes down, let's take a minute and try to understand the reasoning behind GM Bryan Murray giving up on an elite prospect like Rundblad for a former elite prospect in Kyle Turris.
First, as befits the weekend, let's look at the positives with Turris coming in. He's only 22 years old and is signed for the next two seasons at an annual cap hit of $1.4 million. He's a former third overall pick in 2007 who went just behind numbers one and two Patrick Kane and James Van Riemsdyk, both of whom are living up to their once lofty elite prospect status.
Which brings us to the bad news part about Turris. Clearly, he hasn't achieved the same level of success in the NHL as the two stars picked ahead of him (although Van Riemsdyk took longer than Kane to break through), or even a few picked after him like Logan Couture, Sam Gagner or David Perron. Turris' stats read 137 GP, 19 G, 27 A and a -22 through what amounts to two seasons as a semi-regular with the Coyotes.
Yet Turris has shown some skill in the pros. In 2009-2010 with San Antonio in the AHL, where he spent the entire season after he had already played his rookie year in the NHL, Turris put up 63 points in 76 games. And lets not forget last year's shortened playoff performance with 3 points in 4 games. Reasons for optimism.
Turris has decent size, being 6'1 and 185 pounds and will almost assuredly get a shot to be the Senators second line centre after rookies Mika Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa weren't ready for that role. What is a little confusing is that Nick Foligno has stepped into that spot nicely after being a winger for most of his NHL career (no word on Foligno's injury against the Penguins on Friday) and Peter Regin has shown glimpses of being able to fill that slot as well. Conceivably, the Senators, who are having a better than expected year, could have slugged it out with Foligno or Regin the rest of the season knowing they have Zibanejad in the pipeline and just kept Rundblad, whose status as a prospective top-end offensive defenseman is a scarce commodity in the league.
So where did it all go wrong with the Senators and Rundblad? Surely we can't base it all on his rookie performance which isn't even 3 months old? Rundblad was likely headed to the AHL this season for some more seasoning but Rundblad was always a player expected to pay off two or three years down the road. In fact, you'd be had pressed to find a pundit who didn't see him becoming a big star in this league. The outlook on Turris is decidedly more sketchy (although Darren Pang vouches for him).
Clearly, Murray saw an opportunity to strengthen a weakness down the middle and felt he could subtract from his strength on the blueline, knowing he has two blue-chip players in Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen (who had four points Friday night - surely that wasn't the deciding factor?). Murray may also have been looking down the road and seeing himself having to pay three elite defenseman those very expensive elite contracts and decided he'd rather spread that future money around. Murray might also be thinking about the playoffs this year (and rightly so), realizing that Rundblad wasn't going to contribute while Turris already has NHL experience and might contribute right away. Murray likely feels he is accelerating the rebuild while still remaining young and cheap.
With all that said, it still doesn't feel exactly right.
Guys like Rundblad are so rare while offensive forwards like Turris are somewhat easier to draft, trade for or sign in free agency. You can also usually find guys with less baggage than Turris who is now coming to a city which has seen more than it's fair share of contract disputes, trade requests and general disgruntlement. Informally, fans know that this kind of trouble tends to follow players around for their careers. But in a way, that's being unfair to Turris. He deserves a clean slate in Ottawa and will get one, although the same happened with Nikita Filatov and he wasn't able to break free of his reputation in his ridiculously short time here this season (but wait - word is Filatov wasn't able to secure a KHL contract and has come crawling back to Binghamton which will likely be confirmed in the next few hours EDIT: Filatov was assigned to Bingo on paper only. Expected to stay in Russia.).
In short, this trade was a genuine shocker for many, and not just to over reactive bloggers and tweeters like myself. Rundblad, of course, is not a sure bet to be a superstar, but he's a better bet than Turris at this point and you'd probably get 9 out of 10 dentists to agree. Yet Murray feels Turris is a better fit in the long run and he may end up being right.
That's the real crux here, like all player-for-player trades. We won't know who wins and loses for at least three or four years, even if the early results favour one team over the other. Defenseman like Rundblad can take years to blossom and if the Phoenix Coyotes end up moving to Quebec City, Senators fans might be able to watch that take place six times a year for the foreseeable future.
Oh yah. The Senators got a new scoreboard. And Jacques Martin was fired in Montreal.
A Saturday afternoon pint is in order.