After being drafted third overall back in 2007, Kyle Turris has yet to prove in any NHL campaignincluding this onethat he is capable of playing minutes that were even of moderate difficulty in regards to the quality of competition he faces. Considering his easy minutes, his output has been okay at best, which is a disappointment for his talent level.
There is a reason to believe in Turris, however. The skill set is quite legit, as he has high-end hockey sense, puck skills, and finishing ability, and the upside he brings to the table is very desirable. The issue with him all these years has been how physically undeveloped he was, but that part of his game has steadily been coming along. Turris has not hid his displeasure of being a part of the Coyotes organization, and while I usually would not put much value into narratives such as "needs a change of scenery", this is a bit of a different case. The pieces all seem there for Turris: he's highly talented, he works hard, and has put work into his body, but something has not clicked. So looking at this picture objectively, it is quite plausible that getting out of Phoenix may actually be a legit solution to jump start Turris' career.
Dealing for Kyle Turris by giving defenseman David Rundblad and a second round pick is still a very risky move for Ottawa, one where it's difficult to justify the risk/reward from the Senators point of view.
Rundblad has not exactly blown the doors down in his first NHL campaign, after setting fire to the Swedish Elite League with a monstrous campaign with 50 points in 55 games at the age of 20. However, he has only played 24 pro games on North American soil. Many European defenders take a while to adjust to the North American game, never mind the NHL. He has had to be guarded by his coach, facing weak opposition and not getting top-four even strength minutes. Nevertheless, he has flashed the desirable puck-moving upside that will likely stand out on a more consistent basis once he starts to adjust to the NHL.
Rundblad has never been known for his defensive gamefrankly being a liability in that aspectand he's not exactly a strong physical player, either, but his bread and butter has always been truly elite offensive upside. Last year in Sweden, he made fools of opposing teams with his dazzling puck skills, offensive instincts, and puck-moving ability.
There is always the risk Rundblad does not pan out, just as there is with Turris. However, there are distinct differences. While David Rundblad isn't playing at a higher possession level than Kyle Turris is, the sample is only 24 NHL games at age 21 after just coming to North America, as opposed to Turris playing poorly for over 70 games in his age-21 and age-22 seasons. Normal NHL development curves also tend to expect much more out of forwards in their early 20's than they do for defensemen. That's not to say that most forwards do play well at ages 21 and 22, but it's much harder to sell high-end realistic upside for forwards if they have not produced at a semi-decent level by that age as opposed to defensemen.
Looking at these two players side by side, I would say their upsides are about equivalent. Rundblad's raw upside is that of a number one defenseman, while Turris' raw upside is that of a number one center. That said, the chances of both of them reaching those upsides are very unlikely. A realistic projection for Rundblad is a number two or three defender who produces offensively well beyond where the average player in that role usually does but is protected by his coach in regards to what kind of forwards he faces. He is also likely to be a top power play weapon. Kyle Turris could likely end up a fine second line forward in terms of a realistic projection.
When looking at players who are very talented, but have yet to produce, I tend to evaluate their talent level and envision an absolute upside. Then based on the evidence I have, I put a risk premium on the players, which is more or less how much uncertainty I have in projecting their development to reach that ultimate upside. Putting those two factors together gets me a real present value, albeit a very subjective one.
With just about equivalent upsides, the risk premium on Turris is higher, due to his production in relation to the sample size while being over the age of 20 in the NHL and where high-end forwards usually produce at that age. While it's possible that Turris' issues may have just been a case of location, putting high reliance on changing venues being a solution wouldn't be wise. Therefore, the likelihood of Turris taking major steps forwards is pretty low.
The risk premium you put on Rundblad is whether not he'll be able to play tough minutes in the NHL and develop the defensive part of his game or whether will he simply just be an offensive guy who can't play against good NHL forwards. While there is notable concern on that front, he has done so to a degree over in Sweden. He also has such a high-end offensive upside, that even some defensive deficiency will still create a very positive balance in terms of absolute value if he pans out fully and there is less uncertainty in that projection than on Turris, based on only a 24 NHL game sample, his brilliance in Sweden last year, the fact that there is usually a transition period for Swedes coming to the NHL, and the fact he is a 21-year-old defenseman in the NHL.
Another major factor is the contractual one. Due to how fast Turris turned pro, he only has another 4.5 years left until he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent, none of which are under an Entry-Level deal. Phoenix will get the full term for Rundblad at 6.5 years, 1.5 of which will be under an ELC (1 year was lost after being loaned to Sweden after signing last summer). That creates an even wider gap in value due to cost control and overall control of the players.
Consider this trade a win for Phoenix and a significant one, but this deal also has enough question marks surrounding the two players that it is at least conceivable that Ottawa could end up on top when it's all said and done.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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