If that fact isn’t a little astonishing on its own, consider what the Sens gave up to the then Phoenix Coyotes to land such an important pivot: a second-round pick and defenceman David Rundblad, who has spent the past three seasons struggling to get meaningful ice time with the Chicago Blackhawks.
A bona fide steal in hindsight, Turris was only projected to become the Senators’ No. 2 centre at the time of that December 2011 deal, Murray told Hockey Central at Noon Thursday, but he’s certainly the team’s No. 1 man — for now.
“He was a young guy with a big upside,” Murray explained, throwing back on a Thursday. “For some reason, he probably came up a bit early [with Phoenix] to play in the NHL and was a little behind.”
Turris, 26, has since developed into “a force” with the Senators. He ripped 26 goals in 2013-14, 24 more in 2014-15, and already has four (to go with four helpers) in this young campaign. Better yet: He hasn’t missed a game of action since the lockout and is very affordable.
Ottawa has Turris locked up for three seasons at a team-friendly $3.5-million salary-cap hit.
“He’s a key part of what happens with our team. He and [Mark] Stone in particular have hit it off, and now with [Mike] Hoffman going on that line, with the way he shoots the puck, it’s going to be a real good line,” Murray said.
“At the moment, he’s our No. 1 centre. We’re just waiting for [Mika] Zibanejad to show his best and see if he can overtake that role. But that’s our No. 1 line at this time.”
Zibanejad, 22, is off to a decent start, too, especially when you consider his wingers (Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan) haven’t brought the same firepower as Turris’s. Notching five points through six games, the 22-year-old Swede is well on pace to best last’s season’s 46 points, which was a career high.
The player pushing to overtake Turris for that top spot is under contract at a $2.625-million cap hit through 2016-17, at which point Zibanejad will become a restricted free agent.
So expect this friendly battle for ice time to continue for a while. And with sophomore Curtis Lazar still developing in the bottom six, the Senators appear to well-positioned up the middle for the near future.