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Maloney glad to land talented defenseman Rundblad

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few days after Kyle Turris ended his two-month holdout and re-signed with the Coyotes, general manager Don Maloney sat down with his young center over coffee with the intention of having "a heart-to-heart talk" that would clear the slate and allow for a positive future in Arizona.

But Turris was having none of it. He wanted out. He didn't see a future in Arizona.  "It became clear that there some very deep feelings that he had … and he felt his game wasn't a fit for us," Maloney said.

"I didn't realize how deep his feelings were."

Turris played in six games -- no goals, no points and just 11 minutes of ice time a night. The Coyotes, who had been fighting for first place in the Western Conference when Turris arrived, lost four of those six games.

For a team that relies and thrives on chemistry, the oil and vinegar was easy to see. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett benched Turris on Monday, and Maloney picked up the phone. Picking among several deals, Maloney finally settled one with the Ottawa Senators on Saturday that yielded Swedish defenseman David Rundblad, a second-round draft pick next June -- and the opportunity to finally turn the page on Turris.

It came down to the simple fact that the Coyotes felt Turris wasn't good enough on both ends of the ice to supplant centers Daymond Langkow and Martin Hanzal -- and Turris, the third player chosen in the 2007 NHL Draft, wasn't willing to accept a lesser role.

"Kyle is a very strong-minded person, and he firmly believes in every fiber in his bones that he's a front-line player. We like everything about Kyle -- his compete, his will, his drive. The only thing we varied was the assessment of his game, right now at this stage," Maloney said. "We have a certain way we need to play here. We saw Kyle a little lower in our lineup that he wanted to be or thought he should be.

"You know, that's his opinion.

Ottawa was looking for a center. Phoenix didn't mind moving Turris to the Eastern Conference. And the Senators offered the best asset in the 21-year-old Rundblad, who led all defensemen in the Swedish Elite League last season with 50 points in 55 games – the second-highest total by a blueliner in league history.

A first-round pick (No. 17) by St. Louis in 2010 who was dealt to Ottawa on draft night last June, The Coyotes feel Rundblad has the kind of offensive tools that are a good fit for the power play. He joins 20-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a former teammate on Sweden's World Junior squad, and fellow first-rounder Brandon Gormley as the next generation of Phoenix defenseman as 30-something players like Adrian Aucoin, Derek Morris and Michal Rozsival move toward the end of their careers.

"We had to move forward, and fortunately I felt we found a very good return," Maloney said. "He's a very talented, offensive-minded player. We have three older, right-shot defensemen. I think David is a guy who's going to run a power play in the future.

"Keith Yandle is a terrific offensive player and Oliver continues to develop and I think David is that pure quarterback on the power-play -- looking people off, great hands, and great patience. He led the Swedish Elite League in scoring, so you know he has the DNA to excel at an elite level.

"He's a work in progress, still learning the North American game, the small rinks, the speed and the strength, but his patience and instincts are second to none and in my opinion those players figure out how to adapt and become good players. His style of game brings Sergei Zubov to mind and that's what we hope we have."

The Coyotes are trying for their third straight playoff appearance even though their draft history -- especially their top-10 picks -- isn't all that great. Blake Wheeler, the fifth player chosen in the 2004 draft, never signed with Phoenix and left as a free agent, signing with Boston. Pete Mueller, taken No. 8 in 2006, struggled in Phoenix and was eventually shipped to Colorado, where he has been beset with concussion problems.

Now Turris, who many felt could have gone No. 1 in '07, leaves at age 22 after scoring just 19 goals in 137 NHL games.

"It is disappointing," Maloney said. "We thought Kyle could be a core player for us. (Many teams) build their core up with draft picks, then add pieces when you are close. We invested a lot of time in Kyle, it just wasn't a fit; it didn't work. There's a lot of suffering to get that third overall pick, and when you don't end up with a good core player out of it, that sets you back as a franchise.

"But I feel the talent potential in Rundblad is good, and all-in-all it's a good deal for us. We have a player who has a chance to be a top-line defenseman for us."
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