TORONTO – Kyle Turris played more than 20 minutes a night during the Ottawa Senators‘ surprising run to the Eastern Conference final last spring. He scored a huge overtime winner in Round 2 against the Rangers, and had no clue that his time was running short with the organization.
“No, not at all. No. It didn’t cross my mind at all,” he said Wednesday.
On the cusp of his first game back in the nation’s capital since being traded away from the Senators, Turris continually tried to steer the conversation back to the good days in Ottawa. He didn’t have any interest in rehashing the failed talks on a contract extension last summer that ultimately paved his way out of town – not after causing an uproar in December when he told reporters that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk stood in the way of management’s desire to sign him.
Turris agreed to a $36-million, six-year extension as part of the Nov. 5 trade that sent him to Nashville – terms that Senators GM Pierre Dorion has said were never on the table during their discussions.
It’s been speculated that the 28-year-old centre wouldn’t budge off his ask of $7-million per year from Ottawa, but he declined to address those reports.
“I’m just going to stay away from saying anything anymore because I unintentionally may stir something up,” said Turris, referencing the comments he made to reporters in Vancouver about Melnyk. “So I’m just going to stay away from saying anything. I’m sorry.”
There are clearly still some raw feelings about a breakup that probably could have been avoided.
Turris and his wife, Julie, loved living in Ottawa. They started a family there and were heavily involved in local charities and the community. He remains close with several Senators players and said he feels bad for the way this season has played out for them.
He’s particularly sympathetic to captain Erik Karlsson, who has been mentioned prominently in trade speculation with potential free agency looming in 2019.
“He’s one of the best players in the world and it’s been a frustrating year for him,” said Turris. “He’s a great leader. To have the team going through what they’re going through I think is tough and frustrating, and it’s a tough situation for him with all of the rumours going around about him.
“So, yeah, it’s just altogether a tough situation but he handles things well.”
Turris left Ottawa before things truly went sideways – the Sens were 6-3-5 at the time of the trade – and he’s produced more points than his replacement Matt Duchene (23-20) since it went down.
In Nashville, he’s landed with an organization that believes it got closer to championship contention by acquiring him. They are right at the top of the Western Conference.
“The depth of our team [got] better, the power-play units [got] better, so he brings a lot to the table,” said coach Peter Laviolette.
With his wife and three kids now comfortable in their new Nashville surroundings, the present and future is bright. Even still, Turris will likely take a quick moment or two to reflect on the past when he’s back in Ottawa to face the Senators on Thursday night.
He’s guessing the visit will include some playful back-and-forth will old teammates.
“Yeah, I’m buddies with them,” said Turris. “I’m sure I’ll be talking to [Karlsson] and [Mark Stone] and [Mark Borowiecki] and some of the guys. When you get on the ice it’s a game and it’s competitive and it’ll be fun at the same time.”
As for the fans, he’s not sure what to expect. He had hoped to stay in the city long term and didn’t have any say in the decision to trade him out of town.
There’s bound to be some mixed emotions when he skates out on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre and looks up in the stands.
“I hope it’s a good [reaction],” said Turris. “I have so many good memories that I was lucky to share with a packed building all the time. So it was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.”