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Kyle Turris: Where do you stand?

October 27, 2011

Junior no more?

New information was unveiled today in the curious case of RFA holdout Kyle Turris. The Phoenix Coyotes centerman and former 3rd overall draft pick is demanding a trade. Pierre LeBrun was told by Turris’s agent that his client would like to “move forward” and be traded elsewhere. It wasn’t until recently (or, the start of the season) that folks began to openly discuss Turris taking this route. There was still hope he might sign a one-year deal and rejoin the club. Now it appears this is off the table. Then again, stranger things have happened–could Turris have a change of heart, flip agents, sign a deal? Sure. But given the language his agent is using, this seems unlikely.

There was always a sense that Kyle Turris might be different from his RFA compatriots, like Drew Doughty, Steven Stamkos, Brad Marchand and Luke Schenn. These players had demonstrated something in their body of work over three years. Turris, for a pick just behind Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk, was still an unknown quantity. He showed flashes of promise in the playoffs this year. But that was it. There was some chatter about how Phoenix was unlike Toronto or LA or Boston, and how this might affect the Turris situation. But it remained the giant elephant in the room. Low attendance, constant relocation rumors, a low budget–surely it all might lead a guy in his early 20s to wonder if this is what he wanted, if there wasn’t something better.

But the Coyotes organization have firmly taken the stand they will not trade Turris’s rights. If he remains unsigned by December 1, he cannot play in the NHL this year. He’d probably best start exploring KHL and Elitserien options at this stage. I am no conspiracy theorist, but given the that the Coyotes are still run by the NHL, I have to wonder if there isn’t pressure from the top to not trade Turris’s rights, to make a stand. The Coyotes have been publicly pummeled enough. A former 3rd overall pick turning his nose up at the team and THEN being able to walk away? That could be the straw that breaks the Coyotes’ collective mental backs. That’s going too far. The NHL desperately wants hockey to succeed in Phoenix, and getting walked all over is not the right start. Certainly, they’d like to continue receiving the services of Turris. And they don’t want to lend any more credence to the notion Phoenix is an undesirable market to play in. Is Gary Bettman placing calls to Don Maloney saying “you can’t trade him.” Probably not. But I have to wonder if there isn’t that mindset. Heck, if I was Shane Doan et al. as much as they support their comrade, today’s news would have to make them frustrated and upset. This degree of desertion must take its toll.

But again, is that because it’s Phoenix? If Turris was drafted by the Rangers, if things had played out the same for his career (you could argue they don’t and he’d be in his rookie season right now after four years at Wisconsin), would we be thinking this way? A lot of hockey fans have strong feelings about Phoenix–about whether their team should stay or go. How you feel about Phoenix as a team is likely informing your views on Turris. If you think hockey is damned in the desert, then you probably think “all the power to Turris to pursue his rights and options. The Coyotes are horrible for not trading him.” If you want to see hockey succeed, to have an honest shot, then you probably are a bit cranky with Turris right now. A lot of people, myself included, have that underdog soft-spot for the struggling club of Glendale. The NHL’s ownership has produced a collective adoption of the team as our own. And seeing Turris and his agent blow the team off is painful.

Then again, I respect the notion Turris needs to act of out his best interests. He wants to leave. He thinks it’s the best move for his career, his development. Unlike other industries, professional sports, with their contracts and collective bargaining agreements, don’t quite work that way. Sure, it’s not far. But the rules are the rules, and some protect players more than organizations, and others, vice-versa. The current CBA has its flaws, but this isn’t one of them.

If playing one last season in Phoenix is just not possible for Turris, if the thought makes him physically ill, then he’d best pack for Europe, start fresh. I don’t think the Coyotes’ hand will be pushed: this is too symbolic and loaded an issue. Turris is wrapped with the Coyotes, but the Coyotes, not with him. He lacks leverage. There’s naturally the old adage about how he treats the Coyotes is indicative of how he might treat other teams in the future, thereby frightening them away. I have to wonder if that will apply here. Some teams may shrink away from him, others will accept it. There are 29 other teams.

Maybe Turris lands with one of them. Or maybe his road back will be a lot longer.

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