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By Tim Waugh
Arizona Coyotes Writer
December 17th 2011 is a date most Coyotes fans would rather forget. In the midst of budget issues, relocation rumours, and a season which produced what was the most electrifying playoff run in Coyotes franchise history, a trade was made. The effects of which would not be felt for long after, as at the time we thought we were trading damaged goods for damaged goods. Two prospects who had yet to find their way but had amazing potential, along with a draft pick going to the desert.
I am of course talking about the Kyle Turris trade.
* shudders *
Turris was exactly what we needed: a dynamic scoring centerman with star potential, and that’s precisely why we took him 3rd overall in 2007. “Gretzky Era” hockey in the desert is rarely associated with good ideas, but Turris was poised to be our 1C for years to come. So if you’re reading all of this without any previous knowledge to the trade you’re probably wondering… what happened?
Here is a quick refresher on what happened 5 years ago:
- Turris became a free agent July 1, 2011, failed to negotiate a new contract.
- Speculations of him demanding a trade swirled after him remaining unsigned through training camp.
- In October of 2011, Turris’ agent Kurt Overhardt confirmed his trade request, saying it was “never about the money”.
- Turris wasn’t happy about not getting top-line minutes right away, didn’t see eye-to-eye with Coach Dave Tippett.
- Turris signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract on November 22nd 2011.
Personal feelings aside on the demand for a trade * cough* (I hope you burn in hell with Blake Wheeler) *cough*, this article is a focus on something people often ask me as their resident Coyotes fan friend: “What woulda happened if you guys didn’t trade Kyle Turris?” So here it is.
Around 3 weeks after he signed the two-year deal, Kyle Turris is sent to Ottawa for underachieving defenseman David Rundblad and a 2nd round pick. At the time, I was elated with the trade. My love for Turris turned to disdain shortly after news of the trade request, and a fresh start with a budding D prospect had me in high spirits. Sadly it didn’t take long for me to see that Rundblad would never match the hype he received from fans and analysts alike. Remember when everyone (myself included) thought him and Brandon Gormley were going to be elite defensemen?
If then-General Manager Don Maloney promised him the spot in the line-up he so desperately wanted and convinced Turris to sign a long-term deal to remain on the team, fan-favourite veteran (and recent buyout victim) Antoine Vermette would probably never have worn the sedona red. The Coyotes sent the 2nd rounder from Ottawa to Columbus along with goalie Curtis McElhinney (who would have been pretty sweet if we kept him, I feel) and a conditional 3rd in 2013 (which eventually ended up in LA, used to draft Justin Auger) in a deal for Vermette. Nobody expected the 29-year-old French-Canadian to make the impact he did in the desert, playing 291 games and racking up 149 points over his five years in Arizona. Known for his bursts of speed, play-making prowess and league-leading face-off ability, Antoine was more than effective for a team struggling to attract more talented players. Having Vermette playing up and down the depth chart however may have also effected our drafting over the last half decade. If we had a solid future top center like Turris locked in long term, would we be picking players like power-forward center Henrik Samulesson at 27th overall a year later? Or would we have our hands on a winger like Tanner Pearson who was taken by the Kings three picks later? Or perhaps now Devils defenseman Damon Severson who went 60th?
Naturally, there would be some other teams effected by the reversal of this deal outside of the initial trade partners. That 2nd round pick included in the trade was passed around multiple times before it was used. Ottawa sent it to Phoenix, who then dealt it to Columbus, where then it found its final home in Philadelphia in a deal that sent now All-Star, IIHF gold medal, and Vezina winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to the Blue Jackets for a trio of picks, the 2nd round pick being the centrepiece. The Flyers selected a great goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz with that 45th overall pick, and with also swapping Michael Leighton for Steve Mason, the winner of this deal still remains debated by some fans. Makes you wonder though how deep the ripple-effect of reversing this trade actually went around the league… *stares out of window into space longingly*.
There is a very key part of our current rebuild we would be missing had we not dealt Turris, and this is the part that makes the deal so satisfying in the end. Highly touted as our second best center in the prospect pool, and one of the best prospects in the league right now, everyone is awaiting this kid’s arrival to the NHL. It’s crazy to think in retrospect, but this player’s first NHL games might have been in a Blackhawks jersey. The 2014 2nd round pick we swapped for Rundblad with Chicago turned out to be Frankfort, IL native Christian Dvorak. A Bronze medallist for team USA in the World Junior Championship this year and an OHL and CHL champion, he most recently posted 121 points and a +56 for the London Knights in the regular season and 35 points in the 18 playoff games leading to their Memorial Cup win. Possibly the next big piece in the Arizona rebuild, he has impressed and dominated on every level of competition. Besting or mirroring Turris in every department at their respective age levels, even accounting for the vastly different programs they played for, Dvorak is the silver lining we have been waiting five years for.
No matter how you look at it, the Arizona rebuild happening now is the most promising the team has ever looked in all my years as a fan. The organization lost a lot of big names along the way, but none that I could have seen winning us a cup. I would say all things considered, we are better off having Turris make his exodus from the desert.