Interpreting GM speak, or how to explain why Kyle Turris is suddenly trending in Canada this A.M.:
Throughout Kyle Turris’s acrimonious contract talks with the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this fall, general manager Don Maloney was absolutely clear about one thing: the NHL team was not about to trade Turris under any circumstances, no matter how many times he was rumored to be heading to the Calgary Flames (for Rene Bourque, for Mikael Backlund, select your trade rumour of choice).
Maloney’s message was, if Turris intended to play hockey in North America this season, he needed to sign with them - and he needed to do it before Dec. 1, otherwise he would be ineligible to play in the league until next season. Turris ultimately capitulated and agreed to a two-year contract, worth $1.4-million per season - about right for him, considering his limited NHL success, but nowhere near the kind of dollars he was looking for (James van Riemsdyk numbers, in the $4-million per season range).
Turris showed up and has accomplished little so far (zero points in six games), par for the course considering how far behind the rest of the league he is, conditioning-wise. Think about this: Jarome Iginla (injury) and Drew Doughty (contract issues) also missed training camp and were miles behind the rest of the league in the first month; and they are elite NHLers, Canadian Olympians. What chance did Turris have of a smooth integration? Zero.
So don’t read too much into his negligible stats in the early going.
However, Turris has been a healthy scratch for the past two Coyotes games and with the NHL’s Dec. 19 Christmas roster freeze approaching, the expectation is that the Coyotes would try to move his rights before the weekend is out. Maloney has been around long enough to understand that there’s nothing like a deadline, any kind of deadline, to whip NHL GMs into a frenzy.
You’d have to think that quietly and behind the scenes, the Coyotes told Turris that if he signed this year and enough time passed - to when it becomes clear that the marriage between him and the organization is irrevocably shattered - then they would try to find him a home elsewhere.
That’s what is happening now, and accounts for Turris’s popularity on social media. Just about every Canadian team, except for Winnipeg and Montreal, has been linked to him and this is what Maloney’s peers are evaluating at the moment:
First, they need to dismiss Turris’s recent play, because he hasn’t caught up to the pace of the NHL season as yet. Then they need to evaluate how little he’s done in his first three NHL seasons against the potential that made him the third overall choice in 2007, behind Van Riemsdyk and Patrick Kane.
Turris is just 22. He recognized early on that the fit wasn’t right in Phoenix (where coach Dave Tippett is no different than his peers, demanding accountability at both ends of the ice).
But if everyone can remember what excited them about Turris’s potential four-and-a-half years ago - and factor in that he is physically more mature now than he was then - then they’ll have interest.
What Maloney has going for him is the systemic conceit around the league, where so many teams are convinced that a change of scenery, and specifically, a change to their scenery and to their methods and their coaching staff, can turn a player around.
Sometimes, it happens too. Look at how Alexander Steen blossomed away from Toronto. Look at how Joffrey Lupul blossomed in Toronto. Someone will take a chance on Turris and the price will be either a first-round draft choice or a prospect likely taken in the first round. It is time for the Coyotes to turn the page, land an asset, and permit Turris to start fresh somewhere else. Hey, you gotta be pretty desperate for a change if you want to get out of Phoenix in mid-December.
MORE RUMOURS DU JOUR: The Philadelphia Flyers’ reasonable depth on defence will permit them to muddle along without Chris Pronger in the near term, which is the prudent course of action for general manager Paul Holmgren. For now, the Flyers can determine which defencemen in their organization may be ready for prime time duty, while relying on Kimmo Timmonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros to do the heavy lifting in the present. But Pronger has an annual salary cap hit of $4.9-million and the news that he will not return again this season as a result of severe post-concussion syndrome will free up that money for Holmgren to spend eventually, as long as they put him (and keep him) on the long-term injured reserve list.
Much of the early speculation centered on Holmgren trying to hit a home run by landing either Ryan Suter or Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators. The Predators truly believe that they can sign both to contract extensions and will only move one or the other if it becomes clear to them that they cannot. That isn’t going to happen until March at the earliest, and logically, not at all, given how hard the Predators went after Pekka Rinne’s signature on a contract earleir this season.
In Philadelphia, the fallback position is usually a deal with Carolina, where the Hurricanes have some pending unrestricted free agents, including Bryan Allen, the one-time Vancouver Canucks defenceman, who at 6-foot-5 would at least meet the size requirement to replace Pronger. Tim Gleason, the player that Carolina picked up years ago for the rights to Jack Johnson, is a far more complete player, one of the real underrated defensive defenceman, who can quietly eat up about 21 minutes of playing time per night.
The year the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup final against the Chicago Blackhawks, coach Peter Laviolette played four defencemen almost exclusively, and it exacted a toll on his blueline. Since then, he’s been far more willing to rotate six, so that someone like Timmonen, who topped at a 24:31 average in the ’09 season, was playing around 22 per night for the Flyers. Only Pronger, in limited playing time, was logging more ice time than Timonen.
So for Holmgren, if the home run (Weber, Suter) isn’t there, then the logical and likely alternative will be to land a depth player much closer to the trading deadline. Carolina will be taking his calls and at some point, enough time will click off Cory Sarich’s $3.6-million annual cap hit in Calgary to warrant some interest as well.
RUMOURS DU JOUR (2): So how much difference is there between Turris (6 foot 1, 185 pounds, third overall in 2007 to Phoenix) and Derick Brassard (6 foot 1, 199 pounds, sixth overall in 2006 to Columbus)? Right, not much at all, right down to the fact that both are represented by big-time disgruntled agents, unhappy with the way their clients are being deployed.
In many ways, Turris and Brassard are the same player, facing the same career options, not playing (much) for their current teams and looking for a new home. Brassard represents an interesting bit of trade bait for the improving Blue Jackets, who are loath to dump a 24-year-old who once scored 116 points in 58 games for the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs, in part because it is hard to get good value in return for a player your coach won’t play; has a miserable plus-minus rating and is thought of as too soft to be a genuine No. 1 centre. Teams see Turris, they see Brassard, they see their upside and then they think of Matt Stajan’s career trajectory and get cautious. Stay tuned. The other shoe has to drop eventually.
REVISITING THE SEMYON DEAL: The Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov will get to play his old Washington Capitals team this weekend, making it the perfect time to revisit a deal that has taken at least two U-turns since it was consummated back on July 1, on the opening day of the 2011 free agent market. Colorado paid a steep price to shore up its goaltending, surrendering a 2012 first rounder, plus a conditional pick (either second to third rounder) to the Caps to land Varlamov, a 23-year-old that they thought would solve their goaltending issues long-term. Given how poorly Colorado played last season, the idea of giving up a potential lottery draft choice for a player with Varlamov’s injury history seemed ludicrous at the time (Varlamov had never played more than 27 games in his first three NHL seasons). But when Colorado got off to a fast start - they were 6-0 on the road at one point this season - it looked as if the Avalanche would get the last laugh, and prove to people that they were more like the 95-point team that they had in 2010 as opposed to the 68-point team they had in 2011.
But just as quickly, the Avalanche’s season took a turn for the worse and they are now winless in nine on the road heading into Saturday’s date with the Capitals (thankfully, it is being played at home, where the Avs won the last time out, defeating San Jose in a shootout). But all those good feelings evaporated Thursday night, when the Avs blew a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes to San Jose and Varlamov was victimized by all three third-period goals. Colorado has slipped from first to last in the Northwest Division, is 13th overall in the West and if the freefall continues, will soon be down in the bottom five. Washington will be pleased to help that skid continue Saturday. If Varlamov ever has a statement game within him, it’ll be then.
AND FINALLY: Everybody talks about the concussion epidemic; nobody talks about the leg injury epidemic. Dozens of NHLers are on the sidelines, many because they tried to block shots, and the latest to leave the lineup is Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who was hurt the other night, and joins Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and others on the sidelines for the league’s most surprising team ... Anybody remember when the Edmonton Oilers were 8-2-2 to start the season? Thursday’s loss to Phoenix dropped them into an 11th-place tie with Calgary, with a 14-14-3 record. At some point, you wonder if the Oilers will move Ales Hemsky, a skilled and injury-prone forward that doesn’t seem to be a good fit with the new-look Oil. And if Hemsky doesn’t go, does that make Sam Gagner a potential trade target? ... A good December for rookie goalies: Matt Hackett in Minnesota and Richard Bachman in Dallas both came to the rescue of their teams, following injuries to starters. Tonight, Leland Irving, who is on the Calgary roster replacing the injured Henrik Karlsson, will make his debut. Irving is a former No. 1 draft choice (26th overall, 2006, from back in the Darryl Sutter era). Speaking of Sutter, he is working to resolve some family and logistical concerns, which is delaying the announcement that he will be the Los Angeles Kings’ next head coach. It’ll likely become official next Tuesday, once the team returns home from its four-game road trip, meaning John Stevens will likely still be behind the bench Monday, when the Kings play the Maple Leafs in Toronto.