EDMONTON — Sometimes hockey is about intersections. The right places, the right times, the right people at the right price.
Kyle Turris arrived at his zen location on Friday, a $1.65 million third-line centre on a team that won’t ask him to score 65 points. And with the Nashville dumping $2 million in buy-out dollars into Turris’ bank account annually for the next six years, the Oilers get one of the highest pedigree 3Cs in the game today, a former No. 3 overall draft pick who just wants to fit in somewhere after a carer searching for Stanley.
“I’ve got some experience in the league in different situations,” Turris began Friday, on a Zoom call with the Edmonton media. “From being the young guy coming in, then transitioning into more of a middle-aged role, to now being more of a veteran presence. Yes, I feel like I have experience I can offer. To relate to people and communicate in different situations that hopefully will bring the best out of everybody."
“I’m here to do what the team needs me to do,” he declared. “That is playing sold defensively, taking a role in the defensive game. But it’s also contributing offensively. Adding a layer of depth to the team that can help McDavid and Draisaitl.”
Turris joins the Oilers on a two-year, $3.3 million deal. It’s a lot of player for not much money, a right-shot centreman with the skill to trade pucks with Edmonton’s best players when need be.
“We believe he can give us some secondary scoring in the bottom-six,” said GM Ken Holland, “and he gives us a right shot centreman that goes along with our (lefties).”
The role of third-line centre has, like pretty much everything else in the game over these past dozen years or so, evolved. There was a time when the classic third-line centre was a hard-nosed faceoff specialist like Guy Carbonneau, Craig MacTavish, John Madden or Manny Malhotra. A time when the top two lines scored and the bottom two lines checked.
Today, you need offence out of three lines. And the cap had made the fourth line a place to break in kids, more so than somewhere to hide a veteran.
Holland has already signed Jesse Puljujarvi, who slots in on Turris’ right side, and on Friday brought back utility man Tyler Ennis. He still needs a goalie and a defenceman, who Holland describes will be for an “under the radar defenceman. A guy who’s been around the league a little bit.”
Turris, once an elite offensive player, will find a better opportunity playing below McDavid and Draisaitl, as far as the matchups he’ll see. But like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he has the pedigree to play alongside elite talent, and can complement the Oilers centres as a right-winger at times, the way Nugent-Hopkins has in making the switch from centre to left wing.
“I take pride in my defensive game, being a strong two-way centre. But I love offence,” Turris said. “I love creating, contributing offensively. I think I did a good job of that in Ottawa, and not a real good job of it in Nashville. I want to get back to that.”
Turris was drafted ahead of names like Logan Couture, Jakub Voracek and Jamie Benn, but the New Westminster kid never amounted to what the Arizona Coyotes thought they were getting offensively. Today, he is 31 years old, a 40-, 45-point player coming off a buy-out who slots comfortably into the third-line centre spot in Edmonton behind the NHL’s top two scorers.
He is no longer The Man, but instead Turris becomes one of the men tasked with keeping the puck out of Edmonton’s net while the big dogs are having a rest from putting it into the other team’s goal.
“(Edmonton is a) great team moving in the right direction with two of the best players in the world. A great coach… I really feel the opportunity to win here is coming,” said Turris, who played for Oilers head coach Dave Tippett when the two were in Arizona. “Getting bought out was frustrating. Frustrating that it didn’t work out (in Nashville). I’m just really excited to prove the player that I am, and the player I’ve been for most of my career.”
Holland went into this free agent season knowing he needed a 3C and a goalie, but as Jacob Markstrom’s camp strung him along it became clear that the GM would have to wait on the goalie. Now he’s got to find a defenceman, knowing that Oscar Klefbom -- a 25-minute D-man who quarterbacked the NHL’s top powerplay unit -- will possibly miss the entire 2020-21 season with a shoulder injury.
“I’m sort of planning like he’s not going to be back. Not for a while,” Holland said. “That he won’t be with us at the start and, maybe not all year."
They’re talking to Tyson Barrie, but likely don’t have the cap space to make that work.
“Klef’s injury is a huge blow. If he’s not back it’s a massive blow,” the GM admitted. “You just go out and find people to replace those guys.”