Kyle Turris – Doomed to the life of a Desert Dog?

Kyle Turris tried to play hardball with the Phoenix Coyotes and found out they were throwing heat.

Turris held out coming off his entry-level deal and subsequently missed training camp and the first 22 games of the season (and counting).

The original reports suggested Turris was seeking $3-4 million a year – a ridiculous sum for a player who had yet to spend an entire season in the NHL and had less than 20 career goals. But it slowly became clear that the money wasn’t the real issue; Turris simply wanted out of Phoenix. He felt he wasn’t a fit in Phoenix and he wanted a fresh start.

Turris had until Dec. 1 to sign a new contract or else he would be forced to sit out the rest of the season. Phoenix GM Don Maloney made it clear that the only way Turris would play was with the Coyotes. Maloney wasn’t about to be railroaded by a player who had yet to prove anything, especially one coming off an entry-level deal with little leverage.

Low and behold Turris signed a contract, and for all of his posturing, he is still in Phoenix, potentially for the next two seasons, and is making less than $3 million over the course of his new deal.

Holding out has been an absolute failure for Turris – it didn’t make him any more money and it didn’t get him out of Phoenix. But even worse, he has missed out on valuable time in the NHL that he absolutely needed for his development; to teach him the game at its highest level.

Turris, the former third-overall pick in the 2007 draft behind Patrick Kane and James van Reimsdyk, has played only 131 games in the NHL and has 46 points. Among the top-15 picks in that year’s draft, Turris only has the eighth-most points.

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He was rushed to the NHL and spent 63 games with the Coyotes in 2008-09, scoring a mere 20 points in 63 games. He was clearly in over his head, especially playing as a center in a tough division with some of the game’s best pivots, which include Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton and Brad Richards. Talk about baptism by fire.

After being demoted to the San Antonio Rampage the next year, scoring 63 points in 76 games, Turris returned to the NHL last season, slightly improving on his rookie campaign with 25 points in 65 games.

In four playoff games against the Red Wings, Turris seemed like he was finally beginning to turn a corner developmentally. He scored three points in four games and was one of Phoenix’s lone bright spots during Detroit’s four-game sweep.

But rather than building off that performance, Turris missed out on playing against NHL competition because of his holdout, instead skating on his own to stay in shape, which certainly doesn’t provide the same opportunity for growth.

This year was already a pivotal season in Turris’ progression as a legitimate NHL player, and now he’s forced to step in against NHL competition already in mid-season form. Even before holding out, Turris was facing an uphill battle, playing on Phoenix’s third line and getting little ice time, but now living up to his draft day billing will be even more difficult.

If Turris really wants out of Phoenix, now is his chance. The whole league knows he wants out, so if he performs well, the offers should start coming in to Don Maloney. Outside of owning a lottery pick, there are few opportunities for teams to obtain a player of Turris’ potential, so if he begins to show glimpses of what made him the third-overall pick, teams will start lining up.

But if Turris doesn’t perform, he still might find himself leaving Phoenix after all. Although another trip to San Antonio probably wasn’t what he envisioned.

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