The Turris-Rundblad Trade

I think I've made it clear that I'm not a fan of the trade on Saturday, December 17 that sent David Rundblad and the Senators's 2012 second-round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Kyle Turris.

However, it's worth looking at a few things. From some perspectives, the Sens gave up too much for Turris; from others, it may be that they did not. Basing the trade on the respective history of Rundblad and Turris before their NHL careers would lead one to think Ottawa has got the better of the deal; including their NHL careers thus far, it becomes less clear that Ottawa made a good deal at all. Finally, the value of the trade is, for the Senators, determined by its value relative to Turris's performance in an Ottawa uniform.

1) Did the Senators pay too much for Kyle Turris? Oman pointed out in the comments of Mark's analysis comparing David Rundblad to other leaders in the SEL that Turris's value was set at 'what the market will bear'. Relative to what other teams might have been offering Phoenix, we probably won't know whether Bryan Murray highballed. TaBu showed that if we consider the trade for Turris as equivalent to an offer sheet to an RFA, it looks like Murray overpaid: i.e., he offered more for Turris than he would have been required to give as compensation if he'd signed Turris to a contract, via offer sheet, of the same value as he is receiving now. Indeed, at Turris's current cap hit, if the Senators had signed him to an offer sheet, they would have only had to compensate the Coyotes with a third-round pick. Arguably, however, what this shows is that Kyle Turris is making a lot less than, as a high draft pick with lots of potential, he probably could have asked for.

On the other hand, considering only the trade's value with respect to the players' positions in the draft, Rundblad + 2nd for Turris doesn't look too bad. How many of us would have been unhappy if, in 2010, instead of trading the team's first-round selection (16th overall) to the Blues for Rundblad, Murray had been able to trade it and a second-round pick for, say, Erik Gudbranson, or Ryan Johansen? Or, as BigSlice, among others, has pointed out, it might have been better had Murray traded the team's 2012 first-round pick (which the Coyotes asked for) instead of Rundblad. In any case, the terms of the deal are, for fans of the Senators, controversial. This brings us to the real matter of difficulty with the trade, which is the respective history of each player.

2. The respective histories of Rundblad and Turris Here is where I think the greatest controversy lies. The other major controversy about the trade is the relative value to the Senators that each player involved in the trade offers prospectively, but mostly, at this point, it is about their history. Kyle Turris was (according to Mark, and confirmed by Wayne Scanlan) the top-ranked North American prospect according to Central Scouting. In two years with the Burnaby Express of the BCHL, he scored 193 points in 110 games. The BCHL is widely considered not as strong a league as some, although Turris was still highly regarded by the late E. J. McGuire, and it has been mooted that he hurt his development by rushing into the NHL after playing only one year in college.

The controversy lies in his subsequent history with the Coyotes. Turris is widely regarded as having had his development mismanaged because of being a young player in Dave Tippett's system. However, it is worth noting that he played only one full year under Tippett (2009-10), spending his first near-full year (63 games in 2008-09) under Gretzky, and the following season in San Antonio playing for the Rampage (with whom, it should be noted, he earned 63 points, 24 of which were goals, in 76 games; also, in his only year with the Wisconson Badgers, Turris scored 35 points in 36 games). Altogether, in 137 NHL games, Turris has 46 points. This may say more about Tippett's (and Gretzky's) incapacity when it comes to developing youth than it does about Turris's play, but it doesn't look good, even if we agree that Turris still shows the potential to succeed in the NHL. It has been pointed out by Drive2theNet (and, I think, by at least one other person) that in 2010-11, Turris had the highest points-per-60-minutes of all the players on the Coyotes, so he did very well, relative to his time on ice. This could be promising, but it would have to be measured against players who were similarly ranked on their teams. Players with a comparable points-per-60-minutes (Turris was 2.30 for 5 on 5 play) include a wide range of players, from guys like Derek MacKenzie (2.22 p/60) to Alexander Semin (2.35 p/60). Against Turris, his p/60 in 2008-09 (during which he played an average of nearly 2 minutes more per game than in 2010-11) was 0.76, although that was his rookie year. So I am not sure we can draw any firm conclusions from Turris's play.

The most recent knock against Turris was his hold-out on signing a contract with the Coyotes this fall (referred to above in Warren's article on Sens Extra), although, as Peter mentioned in a comment, it is not as though Turris had much choice to do anything else if he wanted to be paid what he (or his agent) felt he was worth. 'Daniel Alfredsson[,]' he pointed out, 'once did the same thing.' We saw that Turris's points-per-60-minutes last season was, although suggestive, not necessarily indicative of his value; does the same hold true in this instance? Alfredsson held out at the beginning of the 1997-8 season, and eventually signed a four-year deal. (The link provided on the Wikipedia entry is to a May 1998 article in the Ottawa Citizen for which I couldn't find an online version; see this column on Alfie's hold-out from October 13, 1997, in the Deseret News, for a contemporary report. Additionally, the monetary amount, $14 million, noted in the entry on Wikipedia appears to be wrong, as abstracts of articles on Alfredsson's 1997 hold-out in USA Today and the Sun Sentinel state that the deal was for $10 million.) The abstract for the article in USA Today, in addition, noted that Alfredsson had been paid $250,000 the previous year (1996-97, his sophomore year). In his rookie year, Alfie made about $230,000. Meanwhile, a comment on a blog post on Sens Army refers to an online interview in which Alfredsson stated that he changed agents after his rookie year when his agent at the time told him to ask for a trade so he could get more money.

I'm not sure how comparable the hold-outs are. Alfie scored 50 goals and 132 points in his first 2 seasons (158 games) with the Senators, and earned just under $500,000, and I don't even think that this was comparable to an entry-level contract under the current CBA. In an article on Turris's hold-out, Greg Wyshynski points out that Turris's contract demand (which was a lot higher than he got in the event) was based on future expectation, more than present performance. At least when Alfredsson held out, he'd had two good years behind him. The 6th Sens gives another look at the results of Turris's hold-out. Not counting his year in the AHL, Turris made just under $1 million/year (I don't know how many of his performance bonuses he was able to earn; presumably very few, if any) during his first contract with the Coyotes. His entry level contract, and the new deal he signed this fall, seem in line with his current performance (which we looked at in depth above), whereas I think it is fair to say that the Senators made like bandits with Alfie's rookie contract.

With respect to Turris's character, there doesn't seem to be much evidence that he is going to be problematic, as the article by Wayne Scanlan, which I cited above, notes; an interview on Sens Town with an Arizona reporter, Sarah McLellan, doesn't seem to indicate many problems to me (thanks to SBNation user Laurie Boschman for providing the link) - but it is notoriously difficult to tell when players are disruptive influences in the locker room.

But what about Rundblad? A number of people have commented that he has hinted he might return to Sweden (say, if told he is to report to the AHL), but I haven't seen any confirmation of this claim, so it is hard to give it much credence.

While Mark's article on his dominance vis-à-vis other defensemen in the SEL (link provided above) makes some good points, I think one weakness is that it doesn't account for the fact that Rundblad was 20 years old when he won the Borje Salming Trophy and scored 50 points in 55 games (as Wham_City pointed out, more or less). With respect to comparing Rundblad to the other winners of the Salming, the three previous winners are all older than I am (so is David Petrasek, the record-setting SEL defenseman to whom Rundblad is most comparable). And, as for other players in the SEL (as listed in Mark's article) who have scored a comparable number of points, not one was a defenseman. None of this is to say that Mark's key point, 'success in the Elitserien is by no means a quality predictor of success in the NHL[,]' does not remain true; but it does not follow from this that giving up Rundblad was not 'overpayment'.

There are other grounds for thinking that the Senators have not necessarily 'overpaid' for Turris; we saw one, above (comparative draft position). Moreover, considering how difficult it is to compare Rundblad's and Turris's success or accomplishments before their NHL careers, about all one can do is say that both provided reasons why they were drafted so highly - although if anything, St. Louis took a gamble on Rundblad, when you consider his stats before his 2010-11 break-out year in the SEL. Meanwhile, though on the whole Rundblad has not impressed in his first season in the NHL, he has played only 24 games, so it is impossible to form any conclusions about how he would turn out. In this it may be said that he has an unfair advantage over Turris, who has nearly two full seasons under his belt (and in neither of which, it is possible, his development was well-handled). On the other hand, despite the perceived lesser quality of competition which Turris would have faced in college and in the BCHL and AHL (compared to Rundblad's competition in the SEL), Turris has consistently excelled, whereas Rundblad was not dominant until his most recent year in the SEL.

3) The comparative value of Rundblad & Turris to the Senators The other major point of controversy about the trade is whether Turris will ultimately bring to the team what Rundblad was projected to. At this point, of course, the only reasonable answer is, who knows? There has been some discussion on this subject in the comment thread on the main post about the trade, i.e., is a second-pair defenseman of Rundblad's calibre better than a second-line centre like Turris might turn out to be (with both, presumably, having the potential to be top-pair or first-line guys), &c. I am not sure that this discussion admits of a satisfactory answer. Part of the problem is that the discussion is taking place without a clear idea of who constitutes a top-notch second-pair defenseman, or who a second-line centre. If (I believe; I may well be wrong) modsuperstar's comments somewhere demonstrated that Mike Fisher is the kind of player whose points are what you can expect from a second-line centre. If that's what we can reasonably expect from Turris, then the trade is not so good for Ottawa (nor, in retrospect, was it wise of Phoenix to draft Turris at 3rd overall); but I think that, although Kyle Turris is likely to centre the second line, the expectation is that he will be on the higher end of the scale - a 1b centre, if you like.

As for Rundblad, people like Murray and Pierre Dorion had a lot of good to say about him when the Senators traded their pick in the 2010 entry draft to St. Louis for him, as Mark's article following the draft shows. A close analysis of second-pair defensemen would have to be done in order to determine which kind of player has more impact.

Whether the Senators paid too much for Turris depends, not so much on his or Rundblad's absolute value or their, let us say, best possible career trajectory, but on whether Turris fills a need for the team the importance of meeting was higher than what Rundblad could have accomplished in his best possible position on Ottawa.

The relative value of Rundblad and of Turris to the Ottawa Senators is probably about equal, if not slanted in favour of Turris, at least from Murray's perspective (or else why would he have made the trade?). The team is probably going to be able to hang on to Turris for about four years, if not more; there's no telling how long Rundblad would have remained with the Senators - we'd like to think for the entirety of his career, but it's impossible to say. That will be the timeframe needed to judge the value of the trade for Ottawa. Comparing the relative value of Rundblad on the one hand and Turris on the other to the Senators is difficult, as there are virtually no absolute standards against which the two can be judged and their performance compared. Let me repeat this for emphasis and clarity: it is Turris's relative value to the Senators that is at stake here. The quality of the trade, from the perspective of the Ottawa Senators, depends not on how well Rundblad fares with the Coyotes, but with how well Turris fills the organisational needs of the Senators. It may be that by absolute standards, or by whatever philosophy of rebuilding any one of us may hold, the trade was bad. If Rundblad is (say) the Ray Bourque or Scott Niedermayer of this decade, the trade will probably never look great, no matter what. But, whatever Rundblad's impact on the Coyotes, the trade will be good for Ottawa if Turris meets or exceeds expectations as the second-line pivot.

4) Conclusions I am still inclined to think, at this point, that the Senators should not have traded Rundblad, or at least not when they did. The team dealt from a place of positional strength (i.e., Murray can count on some good defensive prospects down the line to play on the second defensive pair, even if none of them approach Rundblad's potential), but where Rundblad's value, relative to expectations of his ability, was low. On the other hand, Turris's value on the same criterion is not all that high, either. Rundblad's perceived value is mitigated by his brief NHL history; Turris's is militated against by his somewhat longer time in the league. There is no doubt that this was a good opportunity to acquire a potential top-six player at a reasonable cost, relative to potential value of the players traded in meeting the needs of the team, but it remains open to question whether this was the right opportunity for Murray to grasp. I think that if Murray was considering trading one of the team's top defensive prospects for a top-six forward who would be with the team long-term, it would have been better for him to wait until, say, Rundblad's stock was higher, and then moved him to another team for a player whose own stock was higher than that of Turris's. This would have also given the team's forward prospects time to develop, perhaps making such a trade redundant - or else making its need more evident.

In the end, however, Turris was available at a decent cap hit, with the potential to stay long-term on his new team, and he filled a perceived organisational need. Given his upside, and the results of his career outside the NHL, it is not hard to see why Murray made the trade. Now we shall have a few years to see whether it was worth it.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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