Rewind the clock to a year ago, when there was so much uncertainty surrounding incoming coach Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean and the health of captain Daniel Alfredsson.
The Senators were touting the virtues of rookie defenceman David Rundblad, but were also set to open training camp with a deep void at the second line centre position.
Meanwhile, out on the west coast, Kyle Turris was sitting at home, beginning what would turn into a nasty, three-month long contract impasse with the Phoenix Coyotes. Coyotes general manager Don Maloney wasn’t budging, refusing to pay Turris big dollars and wouldn’t consider trading the player selected third overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft.
Now? MacLean has proven himself as a coach of the year finalist, Alfredsson is returning for yet another season, Rundblad is a distant memory and Turris has become a “core” player within the organization, according to general manager Bryan Murray.
After signing a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension with the Senators on Wednesday, Turris can’t say enough about his new home and new organization.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I knew from the end of the year, this is the place I wanted to be and I wanted to be here a long time. I love everything about it.”
If nothing went right for Turris in the opening months of the 2011-12 season, the Senators fit him like a glove after the Dec. 17 swap, which brought him here for Rundblad and a second round draft pick.
The new start included a lofty position: MacLean immediately handed him a second line centre spot that was his to lose. Turris responded with decent numbers, scoring 12 goals and 17 assists in 29 games, much of that coming with Alfredsson playing on his right side. Turris is also responsible for the last Senators victory at Scotiabank Place; his overtime slapshot beating Henrik Lundqvist in Game 4 of the opening round playoff series against the New York Rangers.
Turris says he was given “confidence” and “self-esteem” after being allowed time to work his way into his position with the Senators. Off the ice, he has settled into a home in Kanata, but also says he has a fondness for downtown and the Byward Market.
“(The trade) was huge, it was a really big breath of fresh air, a fresh start,” he said. “I can’t thank Ottawa enough for the opportunity and trust they had in me.”
Turris isn’t ready to talk about expectations for goals and points next season – at least publicly – but he has shown a commitment to improve. He has spent the summer working out here under the watchful eye of Senators training staff. In addition to being far richer, he’s also much heavier. “I’m in the high 190′s,” he said.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray says the off-season training should be a huge boost for Turris when the 2012-13 season starts.
“We see him as a very solid, potentially better than, second line player,” Murray said. “He’s a real complement to Jason Spezza in the number one (centre) spot. He gave us a chance pretty much every night (last season) to have a real creative second line.”
While Murray says the five-term deal represents a mutual commitment on behalf of the team and Turris, he says the Senators would ideally like to lock up many more of its young players to long-term deals.
“We are going to draft and trade for young players and try to lock them up as best we can,” he said.
With his own future secure, Turris is anxious to get rolling on a new season.
“I’m just excited for the season to start,” he said. “Hopefully, it does at some point. I just want to build on what we had last season.”