Solving Nashville’s​ Kyle Turris Problem

by Thomas Sarver

The lack of solid depth at center became apparent in the 2017 Stanley Cup finals after Ryan Johansen went down with an injury during the end of conference finals against Anaheim. The long term issue with Nashville once again came to haunt the team but this time the stakes were much larger than ever before.

The immediate solution? Sign centreman Nick Bonino who was one of the best third line centers in the league and hope he can manage as a decent second liner. Well, that didn’t work out as the team hoped it would so Nashville participated in a three-team blockbuster trade that sent Kyle Turris to Nashville. Turris looked the part of second line center and put up really nice numbers before disappearing once the playoffs started.

But once the next season starts he will be able to regain that tremendous form, right? Wrong. Injuries ended up plaguing him nearly half of his season, and whenever Turris was on the ice and healthy he looked like the opposite of a game-changing player. So, what changed?

During Turris’ first year with the team, it was very obvious that he had a preference in shooting location on the ice which is normal for veteran players. Turris shot nearly half of his shots in area where the faceoff circles and mid-high slot meet. In that area, he scored 11 of his 16 goals. He was also able to provide 29 assists in that season and while it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly on the ice he was for those assists, it’s unlikely that the amount of time spent in that high danger area was a nonfactor.

Then, starting in the playoffs in 2018 and carrying into the most recent season, Turris’ approach changed. Turris’ shots per game dropped from 1.8 to 1.4 per game which may not seem like a big difference but in addition to that, his preferred shooting spot changed, as did his goal totals and not for the better. Turris went from scoring 70% of his goals from that slot area where he shot 45% of his shots from to shooting 33% of his shots from there and only scoring 33% of the time when he shot from there. Instead of shooting more times in that high danger area, Turris instead shot less often and when he did shoot, his shots were from terrible angels coming from the far side of the faceoff circle. This issue was very similar to an article I wrote about Kevin Fiala earlier on in the season.

So now that has been addressed, a lot of fans have been very pushy to trading him, especially with the recent success Turris had while captaining team Canada.

Turris finished the tournament as a point a game player, and due to that his trade value is probably the highest it has been in the past year. That being said, however, his contract might as well have a no-movement clause as it would be hard to convince a team to commit to that deal. So, I started thinking, what if trading Turris is not the answer? What if the Preds traded for one of the two players he played within the tournament instead? After all, coming off a tournament in which he captained one of the best national teams in the world would do a lot for the confidence. Add onto that by including one of the players he played well with and it could be enough to break the cycle of extremely mediocre play that Turris has shown.

So, who did Turris play with? Anthony Mantha and Jared McCann. While Mantha would be the ideal player, it would be a lot easier to acquire Jared McCann. But we will start with Mantha who is the player who is without a doubt more fun.

Anthony Mantha who is a former first-round pick for Detroit has proven to have a nose for putting the puck in the net as he has scored 49 goals in the past two seasons. To add to that scoring ability, Mantha has good size at 6’5” and 225 pounds. A player like this who also can play on either wing would not be the cheapest thing in the world but be physical enough to open up opportunities for Turris as he can drive to the net and create the space for Turris to move in. While playing on the same line as Turris in the worlds, Mantha had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games

Now for the fun part, figuring out Mantha’s trade value. Usually, Detroit could be bullied when Ken Holland was the GM since he had signed terrible long-term contracts for old talent but that is not the case anymore, Steve Yzerman has taken over and in case you need a little note of what he can do with a team. He made Tampa Bay the contender they are today, so he is not a dumb guy by any stretch of the imagination. Nashville could probably lower the price on Mantha by agreeing to take on the last year of Johan Franzen’s contract which is currently occupying around 4 mil from Detroit’s cap, but even then, the Preds would have to sign Mantha to a big raise next year.

Now for McCann, another former first-round pick. McCann would be incredibly cheaper than Mantha, but you get what you pay for. McCann really isn’t anything special but something he did was working for Canada, whether it’s his brain or two-way ability. Don’t let his 5 points in 10 games fool you either, after all, he has taken a step forward in production at a consistent manner each season and after being traded to the Penguins, he was producing at .53 points per game rate. It would not be incredibly crazy for McCann to breakout next year have 40-50 points.

As for trade value, McCann is easier to gauge give how he is on his third team in four seasons. Every time he has been traded, McCann has not been the focal point of the trade, he has been the sweetener, so I doubt that he would cost more than a 3rd or a 4th round pick but I mean, as long as he performs better than Wayne Simmonds I don’t think Preds fans will mind terribly. McCann’s contract is also running out though but where Mantha will probably make anywhere from 5-8 mil a year, McCann will probably earn a much more modest 2 mill a year, making him an extremely attractive opportunity. Also given Pittsburgh’s efforts to create cap space, the Preds could take on a bad contract to make the trade value even cheaper.

Lastly, where does that leave Turris’ current linemates? Smith, Granlund, and Járnkrok are still going to be on the team of course, and I think Smith stays on the second line. But a whole separate article can be written about the state of the second line, so I will do that.

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