Despite winning their last two games, including a very impressive 4-2 win over the Sharks, the Nashville Predators have a problem.
His name is Kyle Turris.
Turris was a healthy scratch for both Thursday’s win in Los Angeles and Saturday’s win in San Jose. It was the first healthy scratch for Turris since arriving in Nashville, and according to my research, the first he’d had in years in the NHL.
It would be understandable for the Predators to look like a different team without their de facto 2nd line center in the lineup. But they didn’t just look different, they looked improved.
After a good surge to pull ahead of the Kings on Thursday, the Preds had arguably their best game in months against the Sharks. They looked fast through the neutral zone and more creative in the offensive zone.
In particular, the Colton Sissons, Craig Smith, Calle Jarnkrok line (the “new 2nd line”) was excellent. Scratching Kyle Turris helped make it happen.
It’s no secret that Turris is having a terrible season. Having missed 27 games due to injury, Turris has not been able to establish his role as offensive distributor on the 2nd line. He failed to capture the same chemistry that he had early on with Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith. Then, when Fiala was traded for Mikael Granlund, he found his role essentially replaced by Granlund, a playmaking center who can also play wing.
After a few games bouncing up and down the lineup, including a couple games on the 4th line, the coaching staff had clearly had enough. Keep in mind that Peter Laviolette doesn’t use healthy scratches often when dealing with veterans. This two game benching speaks volumes about how the coaching staff felt about Turris’ play.
How bad has Turris been? He currently ranks 14th on the team in points, with 22 in 46 games. And if you include the combined seasons for Granlund, Simmonds, and Boyle from their previous teams, he ranks 17th.
His underlying numbers are awful too. Here’s where Turris ranks on the team in some important advanced metrics (among players with at least 100 even strength minutes):
- Shot attempt share (CF%): 14th
- Shot share (SF%): 16th
- Goals share (GF%): 21st
- Scoring chance share (SCF%): 15th
- High danger chance share (HDCF%): 14th
- Expected goals share (xG%): 20th
- Goals above expected: 21st
That’s barely replacement level production from Turris, who was expected to be a top six contributor all season. Instead he’s been a 4th line level player with very little offensive output.
Which leads to the real problem the Predators have with Turris.
What does the future hold?
For a team that has recently been one of the better managed teams in the league, at least from a salary cap/contract perspective, the Predators might soon have a weighty anchor on their salary cap.
Kyle Turris’ contract extension signed in November 2017 finally kicked in this year. The Preds will be paying him $6 million for this year and the next five years. When his contract finally ends in 2024, Turris will have made $36 million, which is the 5th largest contract ever negotiated by David Poile for the Predators.
For a guy making the 5th largest paycheck in franchise history, the Predators cannot afford merely 4th line level production for the next five years.
But what can they do about it?
There’s always the option to trade his contract away (thankfully, this is still a David Poile-negotiated contract, so it lacks a no-trade or no-movement clause) but who would take on his contract knowing the actual value of the player they are getting? The Predators would almost certainly have to “sweeten the pot” in order for a team to take Turris. A draft pick, a prospect, or even an NHL ready player.
A buyout would put lengthy hardship on future seasons, but would provide more roster freedom and immediate cash. I can’t see Poile going this route, but it is an option available.
For now, it seems like the best option for the Predators is to wait and see if Turris improves. He will most likely get a mulligan for this season from Laviolette and Poile. Chalk it up to injury problems and a shuffled lineup. But while the team will most likely head into the 2019-20 season with Turris slotted as the 2nd line center, I imagine the leash will be considerably shorter.
— All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Money Puck. Featured image via Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports —