Buying Out Souray

Jonathan Willis
February 21 2011 09:15PM

Sheldon Souray cleared re-entry waivers earlier today, meaning that none of the NHL’s 29 teams felt he was worth the remainder of $2.25 million for this season and the entirety of that figure for 2011-12. What happens next is ultimately known only to the Oilers brain-trust, but a buyout seems like a decent possibility.

I have to admit that I was surprised to see Souray slip through the cracks without a single team offering to take him. It wasn’t all that long ago that he was a bona fide top-four defenceman, and he has worn a letter for more than one NHL franchise. His skill-set was not complete; he has never been a particularly swift skater but he’s a big body with a nasty edge and a big shot (I can’t remember who called him a “cycle buster” but I have always felt the phrase matched the player).

I imagine Souray was surprised too, probably more so. There’s never been any evidence to suggest he suffers from a lack of self-confidence, and this must have been a heavy blow.

I wonder how much of the reluctance to claim Souray originated from an actual loss of ability, and how much stemmed from his comments on Steve Tambellini. I don’t think there is a general manager in the game eager to add a player so willing to sound off on troubles in the front office. The reason doesn’t actually matter, though: either way, the result is that nobody is willing to take Souray on for $500,000 less than Jim Vandermeer makes this season.

Barring the unlikely possibility that the Oilers can sweet-talk another team into taking Souray this summer for a different bad contract, that would seem to leave a buyout as the most likely option. The Oilers would have to pay two-thirds of the dollars remaining on his deal; $3,000,000 altogether over the next two seasons. According to Cap Geek, that would leave the team with a cap hit of $2.4 million for next season and $1.5 million in 2012-13.

2012-13 is an interesting year for the Oilers, cap-wise. Barring a trade or two, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Linus Omark and Devan Dubnyk will all see their deals expire that season. The wonder trio and Nikolai Khabibulin have their contracts end the following season.

The cap hit for next season is almost irrelevant for a team in the position the Oilers are. 2012-13 is a different matter, but I suspect the Oilers will chance it anyway. They must want this to end.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#151 Dodd
February 22 2011, 05:09PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

If you accuse me of murder and I exile you and never speak of the issue again, am I innocent because you then decided that it was easier to play by my rules than stand up against me? No, at least I hope not. Or do I? Wait...did I murder a hooker or someone with a soul?

Oh that's funny. I nearly spat out my gum!

I see your point, but the guy publicly threw them under the bus, yet didn't ever follow up on his claims. As far as the team goes, they have to submit to whatever investigation the league files, IF THERE IS A COMPLAINT FILED.

The organization's decision to bury Souray happened after Souray's decision to bury them. Fact.

Let's keep in mind that this is the same Sheldon Souray who didn't attend his end-of-season interview with Tambellini yet then went public about never hearing from them. Is it completely impossible in your mind that we have a "me-first" selfish millionaire on our hands? Why is that harder for you to believe than your conspiracy theory?

I think our losing record and difficulty enticing big talent to a cold, losing market are both affecting how we view a situation where nobody is totally right or wrong.

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#152 book¡e
February 22 2011, 07:16PM
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Dodd wrote:

Oh that's funny. I nearly spat out my gum!

I see your point, but the guy publicly threw them under the bus, yet didn't ever follow up on his claims. As far as the team goes, they have to submit to whatever investigation the league files, IF THERE IS A COMPLAINT FILED.

The organization's decision to bury Souray happened after Souray's decision to bury them. Fact.

Let's keep in mind that this is the same Sheldon Souray who didn't attend his end-of-season interview with Tambellini yet then went public about never hearing from them. Is it completely impossible in your mind that we have a "me-first" selfish millionaire on our hands? Why is that harder for you to believe than your conspiracy theory?

I think our losing record and difficulty enticing big talent to a cold, losing market are both affecting how we view a situation where nobody is totally right or wrong.

I beg to differ. I am pretty sure I am totally right.

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#153 Archaeologuy
February 22 2011, 07:30PM
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@Dodd

Totally possible that it is all a bunch of lies perpetuated by a selfish millionaire. No one seems intent on finding out. Not the media, not the NHLPA, and certainly not the team in question. For that matter even the player with the complaints has obviously failed to mention it again.

So either it didnt happen, or it seems better for all parties to forget that it ever did. Doesnt mean it shouldnt be looked at by someone. I would love to see the evidence that it was "demonstrably untrue" as described by Tambellini. No one has demonstrated its untruth to me.

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#154 Maggie the Monkey
February 22 2011, 11:43PM
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Ender wrote:

Here's something that makes me scratch my head; why yesterday?

Tambellini was public with the statement that he wouldn't put Souray on re-entry unless someone out there expressed a firm interest first. Since no one picked Souray up, either Tambellini was lying or someone played nicky-nicky-nine-doors with the Oilers. I'm thinking the former is more likely, but then that begs the question "What is Tambellini's game?"

If I wanted to get the best possible chance of attracting attention to a white flag I was waving, I'd probably put Souray on the waiver-wire when the highest-possible percentage of NHL team management was around to see it. So, I'd pick . . . a statutory holiday? Presidents Day in the US, various civic and provincial holidays here . . . it doesn't make sense that Tambi would honestly think that was the best time to have people see that Souray was available.

Now, the point is moot in the respect that Tambi probably knew as well as anyone that he could put Souray on waivers for entire weeks at a time and no one would take him. The real question, then, is what putting Souray on waivers yesterday was really all about. The timing of the whole thing . . . well, something smells. Despite appearances, I don't really think yesterday was about moving Shelly.

I have to say I can't figure it out. As a shot in the dark, I might hazard that maybe this is a psychological shot at Souray to see if they really can get him to tear up that contract this summer. I know that is a pretty thin premise, but I can't see why else Tambellini would say one thing a couple weeks ago and then do something else over the long weekend. It makes no sense.

I doubt you'll stumble across my post, but here's a possible explanation about the timing. Jim Matheson wrote:

"As expected, Taylor Chorney was back in the lineup after being assigned in a paper transaction to the Oilers’ Oklahoma City Barons AHL affiliate. The defenceman flew to St. Paul on Monday, with Sheldon Souray off the Oilers’ 23-man roster and waived back to the AHL’s Hershey Bears."

The 48 hour period when Souray was on waivers was the last such gap before the trade deadline, and the team didn't want to have to go through a game without a defenceman needlessly.

Mystery solved?

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