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.