Coming to camp? Photo courtsey Edmonton Journal.

With Or Without You - The Defense And Sheldon Souray

Yet another ball of yarn to deal with.

Oiler defenseman Sheldon Souray had made it quite clear early this calendar year that he’d be more than willing to wave his no-trade clause should he be dealt to a team competing for the Cup.  As the deadline drew nearer, he said he’d be open to a trade to any team in the USA.  When the season ended, it seemed all but a matter of time that he’d be dealt.  Souray voiced his displeasure about being an Oiler to the media, he questioned management’s desire to win – it was an ugly scene.

His no-trade clause expired this past July 1st.  Earlier this month he was put on waivers and there were no takers on the way. So now what?

Just over three years ago, Sheldon Souray was signed with much ballyhoo to a five-year contract worth $27M.  It was an easy to figure out why Edmonton targeted the  then-31 year old Elk Point, Alberta native.

  • Souray is a big, mobile defenseman who can patrol his own end with authority
  • Excellent physical presence
  • Offensive minded defenseman – his play on the point couldn’t be argued with.
  • A real beauty of a slap shot.

An Oilers team that had just missed the playoffs in 06-07 was looking for a number one defenseman to anchor a  return to the playoffs, and it seemed that Souray was a great big step in the right direction.  Three years in, and it doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Injuries have certainly exacerbated Souray’s frustrations.  Most recently, Souray suffered what would turn into a season-ending injury to his right hand after a fight with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla on January 30th.  An infection hindered Souray’s return into the lineup.  Since his arrival in 2007, Souray has played only one complete season (2008-09), but a combined 63 GP in 2007-08 and 2009-10.

It’s more than understandable that he wants out – the Oilers were dreadful last season, he’d often been injured, and he’s not getting any younger (he’ll soon be 34).  Souray has two years left on a deal with $9M remaining, and he’s already cleared waivers.

Here’s where it gets sticky.

If Souray is sent to OKC,  he’s eventually going to get called up, and Edmonton has to have a contingency plan for what happens.  I’d say there’s about an 70% chance that a team is going to take a chance on a guy with Souray’s résumé for two years at 50% of his cap hit.    A team like San Jose seems to be prime real estate for a guy like Souray, and he’d come cheaper than Rob Blake did last year.  Maybe a dark horse like Buffalo would take a stab at Souray, as their captain Craig Rivet will be out for a significant time when the season starts.

Edmonton would still be responsible for the other half of his cap, and having to invest 2.7M in cap in order to have a team take a player that isn’t Ethan Moreau off your team is a pretty raw deal.

There are options out there.  However, if he doesn’t clear waivers,  his trade value will be nearly zero.

And that, friend – may be just what Souray needs.  If he gets zero interest on the way down, and zero on re-entry, it’d be an extremely humbling experience.  He’d have no other choice but to wear the Oil drop and like it. The Oilers would be on the hook for his 5.4M cap hit, but he’d more than likely have a rejuvenated sense of wanting to play for Edmonton again.  Things may be a little bumpy with the fans at first, but if they can forgive Mike Comrie for what he said years ago, they’ll forgive Souray if he comes out and plays the game like he wants to be here.

And let’s face it, if  Souray can stay healthy (a BIG IF), show that he wants to be here and play for the crest, the defense will be more the better. Souray, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, Kurtis Foster, and Jim Vandermeer are all players that make up an NHL-calibre defense.  With the current state of goaltending in Edmonton, a little relief in front of the probable starting tandem could go a ways in the win column.

An NHL defense made up of current NHL players.  Don’t tease me.

**Special thanks to reader Di-Hard Oilfan for catching my waiver gaffe.  Owe you a cold one, mate.

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