What went wrong with Kyle Turris, and where do we go from here?

We settled in to debate about what was wrong with Kyle Turris, and shortly discovered that we were all, more or less, in agreement.

As the rumors about Matt Duchene intensify, and wingers like Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall are entered into the conversation, we’re once again left asking what the Nashville Predators are to do about Kyle Turris, who has just finished the first of six years on a six-million-a-year contract.

The salary cap is expected to go up a little, but the Predators will still have at best a few million of wiggle room once they’ve re-signed current RFAs like Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi, as well as extended any UFAs who they’d like to keep. And they still have to start contract negotiations with Roman Josi, assuming they intend to keep him.

In short, something’s gotta give.

In 55 games with the Predators this season, and his fourth consecutive injury-shortened year, Turris scored 7G/16A, for a combined 23 points—good for 13th on the team. It’s not a very pretty statline, and in combination with his cap hit (tied for second-highest among Preds forwards) it does raise some questions. On the other hand, he had a much better performance at the IIHF World Championship, so hopes as well as questions have been raised.

We’ve gathered some of the OTF staff for a roundtable chat about what happened with Kyle Turris last season, what we can expect to see from him going forward, and whether or not it’s time to give up.

Kate: I think the first thing I want to say is that right now is a terrible time to be trading Turris to clear his cap—whatever else you do or don’t think about him as a player and as a member of the Preds, it’s hard to imagine anyone giving value back in the trade after last season.

So the question becomes whether whoever Poile could sign with that cap space is better than Turris and the sweetener he’d have to include, or else better enough than Turris that the addition of a bad player coming back in the trade isn’t an issue. If the Preds were making a serious run at Taylor Hall, I’d consider it, but then I’d think about Hall playing on 2C Nick Bonino’s wing and I’d change my mind back.

Eric: Hello everyone!

So, I want to start out by saying two things. 1) I am a bit frustrated at how quickly people have soured on Turris. I understand recency bias, but I’m not sure why an injury-riddled season has turned into him being bad his whole time in Nashville. I would also like to point out that he didn’t just break a rib or something. He broke his foot! Twice! You can’t even skate while recovering from that, so there needs to be serious consideration of his injuries when talking about last season (this isn’t like when Craig Smith has his down season every two years or whatever).

Kate: Craig Smith’s Biennial Weirdness. I think he gets away with it by scoring 20/20 just as consistently.

Eric: 2) I am also not sure why most every debate about Turris involves shedding his salary. There are much worse contracts on this team and bringing in Matt Duchene, or whoever, does not have to be preceded by trading Turris. In fact, I’ve run the numbers on how this situation can work out. But, I’d like to hear more thoughts on Turris—maybe from those thinking he is beyond repair.

[We didn’t end up finding any of those.]

Tucker: It is a bit odd seeing the narrative shift to “Turris has been bad in Nashville”. I mean, he had 42 points in 65 games during his first season with Nashville, and he had 16 points through his first 23 games this past season before the injury. I completely understand that he did not look right post-injury, but he was nothing but productive pre-injury.

Kate: Definitely, and he was also a good player for the Ottawa Senators, back before Melnyk drove them off a cliff. He’s got a history of performing pretty solidly, and then he was injured, and then he got back from injury and wasn’t as great—it seems pretty obvious that we’re giving up too fast if we think he’s bad now. I think some people do have hesitations over his playoff performance in 2018, though, which was pre-injuries.

Tucker: His 2018 playoff performance, or lack thereof, has definitely skewed the optics of the situation.

Eric: I’ve gone back and forth on the idea that he is more of an “Eastern Conference player”. What do you guys think (i.e. the West is more of a physical grind than the East)?

Tucker: Well...he certainly isn’t a physical player. He also has a bit of a slight frame. He’s listed as 6’ 1”, 190 lbs—which I honestly can’t believe by looking at him sometimes.

Eric: For sure. But he can be and has been a successful Western Conference player. I got in a Twitter dispute with Joe Rexrode about this, but your point about last season is well-taken. He was fifth on the team in points-per-game, maybe fifth or fourth at a per 60 rate, and roughly the 92nd best scoring forward in the League which, by the numbers, would make him a top-end, second-line player.

Kate: There was also an argument made last year that the Capitals were playing “Western” hockey in the Eastern Conference, so I think it’s a flexible definition anyway.

Tucker: Trotz Hockey, baby! But to your earlier point, Eric, Turris just seems to be everyone’s primary option for “shedding salary” in order to make room for Duchene. I think this should be the last option, not the first. Ideally you’d love to go Johansen, Duchene, Turris down the middle. I understand this may not be the easiest of cap maneuvers to pull off, but if it can be done this is obviously the way to go.

Rachel: MATT DUCHENE! The “white whale.” I have a feeling GMDP will find a way to make it happen. I’m more prepared to part with Nick Bonino than I am Kyle Turris, but that’s a LOT of $$$ down the middle.

Kate: I think nobody wants to be spending $6M on a 3C, so in the pursuit of Duchene (harpoon in hand) it’s Turris who’s the obvious cap dump.

Rachel: Moby Duchene.

Eric: Fair point, Kate. But if you had the choice between a $6M 3C or $4M and it was Turris v. Bonino, wouldn’t you rather have the former?

Kate: Oh, you know the answer to that.

Tucker: Not to mention, I think it’s going to be difficult to move that Turris contract without retaining some of the salary.

Let’s take Duchene off the table for a second (GASP!). How do you feasibly improve the roster this off-season without removing Turris? Who do you look to add?

Kate: Healthy Turris would be a good add. Healthy Turris not getting healthy-scratched by the coaching staff for being rusty would be a better one. As for actual roster adds, oof. I don’t think Artemi Panarin or Taylor Hall is a plausible target, especially since Hall may not even be available.

Eric: I’ve got an idea that would work with or without adding Duchene (I think).

Tucker: *nervously bites nails*

[Eric left us in suspense for a while.]

Eric: Okay, so here is my plan. Currently, the team is going to have about $7.1M in cap space. Under this idea, Nashville would trade Bonino (mild assets in return) and would then have $11.2M. Then, trade Ryan Ellis (I’ll get into the return later).

Tucker: …Oh my...

Eric: That leaves them with a little more than $17.4M in cap space. They will re-sign Sissons and should do so with Boyle and Grimaldi. I will allow $5M for those three combined. So that’s $12.4M left. Bring in Duchene (or not) at, let’s say, $8M per (or a little more). That leaves around $4M to fit in your return for Ellis which should involve a young, scoring middle-six player (e.g. Jakub Vrana). And, if you really want, you can trade Järnkrok too, because he is useless.

Kate: This is the return I get for giving you a platform to defend Turris. 😔 “Useless”!

Eric: And, to be clear, not trading Turris now doesn’t marry you to all six years of his contract. There is an expansion draft coming up, too.

Tucker: That plan is, for the lack of a better term, A LOT. I don’t hate it, mind you. It’s just an aggressive plan, and it’s always difficult to gauge just how aggressive Poile is willing to be. Dumping Turris’ contract on someone and signing Duchene seems more do-able. That’s right. Signing Duchene is “do-able”, and I’ve learned NOTHING over these past few years.

Rachel: Who needs someone like Nick Bonino? Would Pittsburgh send us some picks for #13? Maybe try to re-ignite chemistry with Phil Kessel?

Tucker: Ah, Phil Kessel. Now there’s another dream I’m not ready to give up on.

Rachel: Is it worth considering shifting Turris to the wing and giving Mikael Granlund a shot at center?

Eric: Someone would give something for Bonino—doesn’t have to be a lot. Also, you wouldn’t actually need to re-sign Boyle. That would be a luxury in this case.

Shaun: Hello, sorry to join in so late, but here I am. Rachel, I think it would be worthwhile to give Granlund a shot at center. Of course, I really want to make sure everyone knows that I’m a big fan of Kyle Turris and I don’t want him to be traded, but it may actually be what’s best for Turris. Let me explain:

First, toward the end of the season, he made some comments about his bad play being because he wasn’t able to play his own game. It seemed like a shot across the bow at the coaching staff. A lot of people attributed this to injury, but it could also have been passive-aggressive. Fast forward to an interview after the Worlds. After what I would consider to be an All-Star caliber performance, he was asked about his success and called back to the previous interview by saying he was able to play his own game there. This, to me, is a clear-cut case of Turris making a somewhat veiled public complaint about his coaches in Nashville.

I might also add that it’s possible this was more of a message to GM David Poile than a message to the coaching staff. If that’s the case, whether or not Poile agrees with him I don’t know, but the problem for Turris is that regardless of the addition of Dan Lambert, the climate in that locker room when he walks back in is not going to be very comfortable for the guy that doubled down on calling out the coaching staff.

I suppose this leads me to the conclusion is that I feel Turris is very unlikely to be on the Predators roster next season, especially given the very vocal and public support Poile threw to the coaching staff at the end of the season. I actually think Kyle Turris is kind of a weather balloon that will tell us how short the leash is on Peter Laviolette. If Turris is around in the fall, I think Poile wants Laviolette to put up or shut up. If Turris is gone, I think Poile has a lot more confidence in Laviolette than I (and many others) do.

Does that sound like a strange conspiracy theory?

Tucker: I don’t know if it verges on “conspiracy”, but it’s certainly a theory. I’m not going to pretend to know what any of these guys are thinking. Hockey players generally speak in generic platitudes and obfuscate their true personalities/feelings at all costs (well, most of them, at least).

I wouldn’t read too much into Poile backing the coaches. That’s what he’s always done, and that’s what he’ll always continue to do. He’s not going to publicly browbeat a coach. That’s just not in his nature.

Shaun: That’s a very good point. I don’t really think a coach would want to stick around if that was the case, which is why I think Turris is gone for sure.

So, how do you think Kessel comes aboard?

Tucker: By trading everyone’s favorite NHL video game cover athlete. He’d clear quite a bit of cap.

Kate: Oh boy.

Shaun: Do you think Kessel solves the scoring problems? Do they still dump Turris?

Tucker: I think he’d instantly be the best forward on the team, and adding a player of his caliber could really open up the possibilities of the top-six. You could break up JoFA, and move Forsberg or Arvidsson down to help boost the second line. You could experiment with Granlund at center, and dump Turris. There’s just a lot of options.

Kate: I’m not sure whether that solves more problems than it creates, honestly. Like I said way back at the beginning, if you trade Turris and don’t add another center at least as good as he is, you’ve got Nick Bonino, 2C, which is a phrase I don’t like at all. Maybe Granlund could play center—though has he ever?—but that’s a big “maybe” and the alternatives, frankly, suck. Also, breaking up JOFA is iffy, though a star forward coming in might help.

Tucker: 2C Calle Jarnkrok would save us… I’m kidding, of course. Ideally, if we add Kessel (by trading Subban) we’d hang on to Turris. It’s just an alternative to the “Dump Turris, Sign Duchene” scenario.

Kate: I think the big advantage to Kessel would be signing a player with a good shot who can score, and who only has a limited ability to opt out, right? Because at that, he sounds—much as I hate saying it—a lot like Duchene, with worse on-ice results and higher production, some of which might be to the credit of Evgeni Malkin. (And yeah, “2C Calle Järnkrok” is a bad phrase too.)

Oh, hey, I’ve got a conspiracy theory that should be right up everyone’s alley: Olympic gold medalist and all-around superstar Amanda Kessel said she had a fantastic time playing in Nashville back at the NWHL All-Star Game in February, though I have no idea if she was photographed in a cowboy hat while there. #BestKesselToNashville?

Tucker: We’re cooking with gas now.

Shaun: Can we get both Kessels?

We didn’t get much debate going about Kyle Turris, but we did conclude he doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem facing the Preds right now. What do you think?