Perhaps the most surprising news of this week came when the Edmonton Oilers announced that wayward defenseman Sheldon Souray would not attend training camp. Apparently we’re not alone in wondering how, exactly, such a move will make it easier to trade the useful but injury-ravaged blueliner.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson feels the same way, pointing out that a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets (one team in need of a point man with a rocket shot like Souray’s) would be much more willing to give Souray a try if he was ready to go right away, a possibility that is much more limited if Souray isn’t attending training camp.
Isn’t it considerably easier to trade an asset who’s in an NHL jersey, playing games, especially one with the checkered injury past of Souray, than it is when that player is gathering dust and skating with, say, the University of Alberta Golden Bears during training camp?
NHL teams want to see if Souray is not only productive with the puck on his stick, but healthy, don’t they? The Columbus Blue Jackets could seriously use his bazooka from the point, in concert with speedy playmaker Kris Russell on the power play.
But for general manager Scott Howson’s intrigue to move to solid interest, you would think he would want to see Souray on the ice if he hasn’t been in a game since breaking his hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla nine months ago.
Not only that, but if the season starts and it’s November and a team gets antsy for an offensive guy, aren’t they going to be less gung-ho for a trade if they’re going for a player who needs to feel his way into games because he’s had none in camp, or early in the season?
Absolutely, on both counts.
Matheson interviewed an NHL agent who made a great analogy. Keeping Souray out of training camp is like putting up a house up for sale but stating that it needs major renovations.
I can see the logic in wanting to “stand their ground,” but I doubt that Souray would be such a cancer that he’d infect the culture of the team and poison newcomers such as Taylor Hall. He’s not an outright necessity on a team that has some decent potential point producing defenseman including Tom Gilbert and turnover machine Ryan Whitney, but would it hurt to have a guy with some skill like him anyway?
The Oilers are resolute in making this decision, but they better be prepared to deal with the fall-out that comes with it. Their options probably boil down to paying Souray to $4.5 million to play in the AHL (according to CapGeek.com), trading him for negligible value or even wasting cap space and money by letting another team claim him on re-entry waivers. They aren’t in a great position either way, but now it seems like they’ve traded an uphill battle for climbing up a mountain.