Barely a week into this NHL season, the contract status of Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris became the subject of media scrutiny.
Turris, 28, is in the final season of his five-year, $17.5-million contract. He's eligible next July for unrestricted free agency. On Thursday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported his belief that contract discussions between the Turris camp and Senators management could result in the center being moved by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He said Turris seeks a seven- or eight-year deal but the Senators so far are reluctant to go that far. Dreger noted there was some contract dialogue between the two sides going back to early summer. If an agreement can't be reached before the trade deadline, he feels the Senators cannot risk losing such a valuable player to free agency for nothing.
Two days later, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman also reported term was the sticking point. He said he was told the two sides were close to agreement on the dollars, believed to be around $6 million. His colleague Nick Kypreos said he's heard some teams claim Turris is available and expects general manager Pierre Dorion to listen to offers as long as the center isn't under a long-term contract.
Friedman and Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch reported Turris prefers to re-sign with the Senators, while Garrioch adds the center hasn't requested a trade and wants to focus on hockey, leaving contract talks up to his agent. The Senators also intend to maintain negotiations during this season.
Garrioch's colleague Don Brennan, meanwhile, wonders if this story isn't the result of a rival GM trying to stir things up. He doesn't see either side benefiting from leaking information about the negotiations to the press. Brennan acknowledges a trade is possible but it's not what his sources are saying.
Plenty of time remains before the trade deadline for the Senators and Turris' agent to work out a deal. Perhaps Dorion offers more money in actual salary up front or a little more in annual average salary - perhaps around $6.5 million – as encouragement to accept a four- or five-year contract. Dorion might be willing to at least field inquiries about Turris but he's certainly in no rush to move him right now, if at all. It will take a significant offer to tempt him.
In recent weeks, reports emerged claiming Dorion expressed interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Perhaps he sees the Avs center as a possible “Plan B” if unable to get Turris under contract. A Turris-for-Duchene swap seems logical for both sides but a couple of factors work against it. The biggest, of course, is Turris' impending UFA eligibility. The Avs won't acquire a player who could bolt via free agency in July. They'd want assurances they can re-sign him, meaning they'll need permission from the Senators to discuss contract terms before agreeing to a deal.
Another is the Avs' asking price for Duchene. Reports indicate they seek an established young top-four defenseman as part of the return. Turris won't fill that need. Dorion, meanwhile, is unwilling to part with Cody Ceci or promising blueliner Thomas Chabot. Unless the Avalanche lower their price there doesn't appear any possibility of a deal with the Senators.
ATHANASIOU HEADS TO SWITZERLAND
The contract standoff between the Detroit Red Wings and winger Andreas Athanasiou took a turn for the worse last week when he headed to Switzerland to consider his options. The 23-year-old is this season's only remaining unsigned restricted free agent.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports the young winger seeks $2.5 million per season. The Wings, however, have offered up a one-year, $1.25-million contract and a two-year deal worth $1.9 million per season. Khan also reports Athanasiou had a one-year offer from KHL team AK Bars Kazan. However, it was withdrawn because he reportedly sought too much money.
The Athletic's Craig Custance suggests there could be more to Athanasiou's contract impasse than money. There's talk he's unhappy with the Wings' coaching staff regarding his role and playing time last season. If it takes a trade to resolve this issue, Custance feels both sides must be patient. He reports the Wings aren't shopping Athanasiou but could listen to offers. The asking price is said to be a young top-four defenseman or a young center.
Both sides for now appear well-entrenched in their respective positions. However, there is a deadline to get this situation sorted out. If Athanasiou isn't under contract by Dec.1, he'll be ineligible to play the remainder of the season. The Wings will likely continue to wait Athanasiou out. But if this drags into December with no resolution in sight, they could consider shopping him to the highest bidder.
A rival club could swoop in and sign Athanasiou to an offer sheet. With the Red Wings pressed against the $75 million salary-cap ceiling, they'll be left scrambling to clear sufficient cap room to match within seven days of his signing that offer sheet. However, the offer sheet has become a lost art in the NHL. General managers seem to avoid that gambit in order to maintain good will among each other. If another team intended to target Athanasiou for an offer sheet, they likely would've done so by now.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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