Sheldon Souray presumably available for all 29 NHL teams to pursue

Flash back to April of 2010, right when the Sharks were gearing up for a playoff run and Edmonton was putting the finishing touches on the fifth worst season by an NHL team since the lockout. Tensions in the clubhouse were obviously running high, and for a player who struggled extensively with injuries since joining the organization in 2007 (26, 81, 37 GP the last three years), those feelings of ill-will seemed be a little stronger.

Speaking to Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca, Souray explained that he wanted out of Edmonton. Ah yes, yet another player, in a long line of players, who expressed the desire to play somewhere else:

"I want a trade. I do," Souray repeated, sounding a little disappointed at the admission. "Yes, I do want a trade."

 

"It’s not a players thing. It’s not a fans thing or a city thing. It’s a management thing," Souray said. "They’ve given up on me, and it’s a two-way street.

"I don’t talk to anyone (in management) and I don’t expect to when I check out of here," said Souray, who still has two seasons left on the five-year, $27 million deal then-GM Kevin Lowe signed him to in the summer of 2007. "I don’t really need to talk to them. There isn’t anything to say.

>> Sportsnet.ca

Was it a surprise that Souray wanted out? Not necessarily. Derek Zona of Copper & Blue explained, "That he [Souray] and Tambellini haven't talked since January isn't a surprise in most quarters on the 'sphere. Openness and transparency, even amongst their own employees, is not a priority in the organization. Considering the other issues we've seen in this area, this is plausible."

Another king brought in, another pauper pushed out. For fans in Edmonton, it has become something of a yearly tradition, a macabre death march through the bitter winter known as the offseason-- sad, slow, and utterly frustrating.

So when news broke yesterday evening that the Oilers had asked Souray not to attend their training camp next week, could it even be considered a surprise? For an organization that has done its damndest to quash any sense of uprising within its ranks, both amongst the fanbase as well as in the locker room, the fact that Souray was notified this late in the offseason of his unwelcome presence with the team doesn't seem like anything out of the ordinary when it comes to Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe.

And frankly, they're worse off for it.

The one hope Edmonton had of moving Souray this year would be to welcome him back to training camp, give him minutes at the NHL level to prove to other teams that he could stay healthy and be productive, and then flip him for whatever assets they could muster for an oft-injured defenseman making $5.4MM over the next two seasons. Now, with his trade value essentially zero, the Oilers have put themselves into a position where sending Souray through waivers and then re-calling him seems like the only way any team would take a gamble and place a claim on him.

Could this be San Jose's angle? Re-entry waivers would only cost the team $2.7MM against the cap this season and next, a blessing for a team that currently has $1.67MM in cap space to work with in the upcoming year. Souray's a good player when healthy, with a booming shot from the point (23 G in 2009) and above average quality of competition numbers, but the risk involved here doesn't sound like Doug Wilson.

Although Souray would be an upgrade over Niclas Wallin, his acquisition would require the Sharks to make another move in order to fit under the NHL salary cap. A simple demotion of Kent Huskins would do the trick, but with Wilson's recent comments on Huskins and Wallin being Stanley Cup winning defenseman still ringing loudly, it doesn't exactly sound like the GM would be so quick to demote that type of player to Worcester. Another avenue would be to trade Huskins to a team in need of reaching the salary cap floor (Colorado currently requires another roster player to become cap compliant), but as others have pointed out, there is essentially no demand for depth defenseman in the market today-- numerous teams can find replacement value still trying to find jobs in free agency, making the $1.7MM price tag an unnecessary addition to their rosters.

One must also take into account the fact that 28 other NHL teams would get first stab at Souray before San Jose would be able to claim him. Waiver priority is set by the current standings, and since the Sharks finished second in the NHL last year (with Washington winning the Presidents Trophy), they would be nearly last in line to obtain his services.

Furthermore, a play for Souray would likely be Wilson's last move at obtaining a blueline upgrade without giving up a roster player of value-- although Ryane Clowe is always a name that pops up in these discussions due to his price tag and inconsistent offensive output, Wilson seems to be holding his cards tight when it comes to the 27 year old power forward. If he's going to move Clowe and prospects/picks for a defensive upgrade, he'll likely want that extra cap space handy in order to get a guy who can provide a much bigger impact than Souray-- in other words, a guy who comes in around the $5.00MM price range and has proved he can stay healthy.

Coupled with an injury history the size of Tommy Wingels list of grievances against schoolyard bullies, and it appears to be a situation where the risks don't outweigh the rewards.

The prospect of a healthy Souray is an extremely intriguing one, especially for a Sharks blueline that could use a top four presence within their ranks. But with injuries being a huge detriment to his success over the last three seasons, San Jose would be wise to wait this one out and see what is avaliable towards the middle of the year when teams have fallen out of the playoff race.

Yes, I'm wary of deadline deals just as much as the next guy. But what you see is what you get, and unless Doug Wilson has a poker face that even Cal Lightman couldn't pick up on, we'll be seeing a below average unit starting the season in Stockholm less than a month from now.

It's something that should have been addressed in July. But I'm a patient guy. At this point, all that's left to do is to twitch nervously in your seat and wait.

 

Go Sharks.

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