Trade Analysis: Phoenix Coyotes Trade Kyle Turris to Ottawa Senators for David Rundblad and 2012 2nd Round Pick

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THE TRADE

As per Bob Mckenzie of TSN, the Phoenix Coyotes have dealt former 3rd overall pick Kyle Turris to the Ottawa Senators for highly touted Swedish defensive prospect David Rundblad and a 2nd round draft pick in 2012.

The deal comes months after Kyle Turris requested a trade out of Phoenix during the offseason. As a restricted free agent, Turris had originally refused to sign a contract with the Coyotes, demanding he be dealt elsewhere. However, Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney was adamant that Turris would not be traded unless he received a trade offer that blew him out of the water, and he remained true to his word. Turris was eventually forced to sign or risk not being allowed to play in the NHL all season. However, there were rumors that a back-room agreement was made that if Turris signed, Maloney would continue looking to trade him. It appears those rumors were correct, as today Maloney dealt Turris to the Ottawa Senators.

ANALYSIS

OTTAWA SENATORS:

In center Kyle Turris, the Ottawa Senators get a former 3rd overall pick from the 2007 NHL Entry Draft who, despite disappointing thus far in his short NHL career, does have potential.

But having potential is one thing. Reaching it is another. Of concern is that, year after year, I see very little improvement from Turris. The biggest hole in his game is that he is physically weak and easily knocked off the puck, a common problem for young finesse scorers transitioning to the NHL. But Turris was drafted four years ago. He should have made some major steps in the right direction by now, but he hasn’t, which calls into question his work ethic. You can’t get anywhere in this league without hard work. How naturally talented a player is or isn’t when he is drafted at age 18 makes little difference if he is not willing to work at getting even better in the subsequent years. So far, this is where Turris’ development has gone off track more than any other area.

Luckily for Turris, if he ever does decide to start working, he has good natural ability to build on. He has a fairly long frame and reach, good speed and agility, fairly good hands, and an above average shot. His hockey sense on the ice appears adequate if not spectacular. Where he struggles is in puck protection and physical strength. His confidence also appeared low when playing for the Coyotes.

What gives me the most hope about Turris is that, besides having a great shot, he actually reminds me a lot of Steven Stamkos during his rookie season, when he struggled so much to score, and some even started to wonder if he was a bust. At the time, his head coach, Barry Melrose, even said that he “was not NHL ready.” Melrose likely said this because Stamkos, like Turris, had a lanky frame in need of further strengthening, and he would get knocked of the puck too easily as a result.

So what did Stamkos do in the offseason? He focused on strength building, bulked up, and scored 51 goals the next season.

Do I see the same thing in Turris’ future? Even if Turris was as committed to the game as Stamkos, and he hasn’t seemed to be so far, he does not have the finishing ability that Stamkos relies on to score many of his goals. I do not see Turris ever being the elite goal-scorer Stamkos is. But the way Turris skates, the speed, almost everything else about his game other than the shot, he just looks a lot like a physically weaker Stamkos. This gives me hope that if Turris can ever match the physical strength of Stamkos, he will start to look like the real Steven Stamkos, minus the great shot.

If Stamkos no longer had an elite shot, would you still want him on your team? I think most would; he would still be a very good player. That’s the ceiling for Turris, in my opinion, and shot or no, it’s still a very good one. He hasn’t done anything to show me he can reach it, mind you, or that he is even committed to trying, but at least the potential is there. Maybe the change of scenery will invigorate him.

Overall, if Turris continues to not work hard enough at his game, this will end up a very poor trade for the Senators. But if a new home in Ottawa motivates Turris to develop into the best player he can be, the trade could prove fruitful. It all depends on how Rundblad turns out if the trade could then be deemed a huge win for the Sens, but if Turris fulfills his Stamkos-without-the-shot potential, I think Senators fans will be content with the trade, if not consider it a win.

PHOENIX COYOTES:

In exchange for Turris, the Phoenix Coyotes receive Swedish defenseman David Rundblad, a former middle 1st round pick himself, and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. While the pick is a significant throw-in for the Coyotes, the main piece is David Rundblad. Rundblad is considered by many to be one of the best defensive prospects in the world, largely thanks to an All-Star worthy season in the Swedish Elite League last year where he led all defencemen in points, with 50 in just 55 games. This would have been a fantastic season for any defenseman, let alone a (now) 21-year-old.

As those stats would suggest, Rundblad has an excellent offensive skillset for a defenseman. He reminds me of Drew Doughty in some areas. His skating is not to the level of a Doughty (although Doughty’s speed and skating is no longer to the level of vintage-Doughty, either), but he’s very comfortable on his skates with good balance, and he has very good hands. At 6’2″, 190 lbs, he also has more than adequate size and reach. He may end up adding a bit more weight to that frame in the future, but even at 190 lbs, I don’t get the sense he is wanting for more muscle on the ice. Physically and in terms of offensive talent, he is already NHL ready, and he has the potential to be a top-pairing NHL defenseman.

Where Rundblad seems to struggle at the NHL level, and struggle mightily, is in the fundamentals of the game. He takes too many risks, turns the puck over high, does not take the correct side of his check at times along the boards, does not play the system correctly… Without the extra ice available to him on the larger, international rinks, Rundblad seems less effective, even lost at times. You might expect this rough transition on defense, but Rundblad has struggled offensively since reaching the NHL, too, with only 4 points in 24 games this season. In addition to making bad decisions, he also seems a bit “softer” physically now than he did in the Sweden, lacking that extra bit of power that he used to such great effect in dominating the Swedish Elite League.

Is it just the smaller rinks that are giving Rundblad trouble while he transitions? Is it confidence? Or much more worrisome, is his hockey sense poor?

It’s hard to say what. Certainly, his fundamentals are poor, especially on defense, and he could use major schooling in the details of our game that go into defending effectively at the NHL level. Luckily, he will get to learn from one of the best in that regard, Dave Tippet.

However, after the issues with fundamentals, we get into unknown territory. Fundamentals can be taught and improved upon. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Issues with hockey sense and reading the game, however, are much more difficult to correct. If that’s what scouts are seeing, and it would not surprise me given that Rundblad, considered a top 10 prospect to most outside of NHL organizations, has already been traded twice before the age of 22, then Rundblad has bigger problems.

On the other hand, 50 points in 55 games as a 20-year-old in the top Swedish league is very encouraging. It would seem he didn’t have much problem reading the game there, although the bigger ice and lower level of competition helps.

But if I had to guess the cause of Rundblad’s struggles thus far at the NHL level, it would be a combination of his poor fundamentals, which already make the game more difficult for him than it has to be, along with a lack of confidence.

In Sweden, Rundblad oozed confidence, which allowed him to use his many physical talents to their greatest effect on offense. He played freely, jumping all over the ice on a whim, a “rock star” type of game that you rarely see from defenseman in the NHL. Think P.K. Subban, or Drew Doughty two seasons ago.

Unfortunately, it’s also the style of game some coaches don’t want their defencemen playing. Sometimes it just takes one risky play gone wrong for a coach to criticize his player, and for the player to lose confidence and stop attempting those creative plays. The problem for Rundblad is that’s how he plays, that’s how he is most effective. But so far, he hasn’t been able to play that way in the NHL. Part of that is, it’s harder to do on the smaller ice surface, not to mention teams defend better at the NHL level. However, it’s also possible Rundblad has simply been afraid to play the way he did in Sweden, afraid to make any mistakes, when players like him have to be given the leash to make mistakes sometimes. Otherwise instead of getting five great plays for every one mistake, you still get the mistakes from a nervous player, but you don’t get any of the reward.

I don’t know if that’s really what is hampering Rundblad or not, but it’s as good a theory as any. Whatever has held him back, I do think he has enough talent that he should still be capable of making some plays in the NHL, like he did in Sweden, even if the ice is smaller.

Overall, Rundblad has fantastic offensive tools from a physical standpoint, in terms of everything from the neck down. As long as his head (i.e. hockey sense, defensive reads, etc.), fundamentals, and defensive game can keep up, he should make for a quality top-four defenseman, if not a top-pairing one. He even has #1 potential, but he really needs to maximize all his talent and iron out his weaknesses for that to happen. But it’s definitely possible.

WHO WINS THE TRADE?

When I first watched highlights of Rundblad playing in Sweden, I loved what I saw. The plays he made with his physical talent and puck-handling screamed top-pairing defenseman. However, since watching him play live, for full games, at the NHL level, I have soured on him a bit. He wasn’t making the highlight-reel plays anymore, and in their stead were mental errors, bad decisions, poor fundamentals, and a general lack of “detail” in his game. In that light, Rundblad is a hard player to judge, and you could say the same thing for Turris. That makes this deal a very hard one to judge, harder than some people’s initial reactions would suggest.

At the end of the day, I have to side with Phoenix as my winner, simply because, for all the weaknesses in Rundblad’s game right now, that physical talent he demonstrated so often playing in Sweden is still there. I did not imagine seeing it. On one hand, it does not bode well that Rundblad is starting out so far behind most NHL players, even other prospects his age, in terms of defensive fundamentals, but on the other hand, that’s still something that can be fixed with hard work and good coaching. Clearly, for both Turris and Rundblad, it will be difficult to achieve anything at the NHL level without hard work. That’s why, to judge the deal, I have to look at two things.

1. Who is most likely to put in the hard work necessary to reach his potential?
2. If both put in maximum effort, who has the higher ceiling?

Starting with 2. and working backwards, I feel that, despite the weaknesses in Rundblad’s game, he still has the higher ceiling due to his top-end physical talent, the level of which is so rare to find in a defenseman. As for the first question, I have to go with Rundblad again. I have absolutely no idea what his work ethic is like, but I ask myself, could it really be worse than what I’ve seen so far from Turris, who has failed to improve much at all since I first saw him play in the NHL? It’s always possible, but for now, I have to side with Rundblad.

However, that’s not to say Rundblad is a lock to become the better player, just because I favored him for both questions. Depending on which player works the hardest, and how well Rundblad is able to iron out the weaknesses in his game, the deal could go either way. For all Rundblad’s talent, he has a long way to go in the areas I’ve already outlined, perhaps longer than Turris does.

But, at the end of the day, Rundblad has top-pairing potential, whereas I see Turris maxing out as a very good 2nd line center, not a 1st line one. That the Phoenix Coyotes also get the 2nd round pick in this deal has to tilt it in their favor for now. With that said, Senators management felt they needed another top-six center more than they needed a top-four defenseman, and it’s possible both teams could end up with what they want.

Winner: Phoenix Coyotes.

Written by Shark Circle

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