There was a time when Sheldon Souray was a highly physical and offensively productive defenceman. He was a rare breed of bulk and boom, with the latter often coming from the blueline on the powerplay.
That was three long years ago when Souray scored 23 goals–the second-highest total of his career–and 53 points during his second season as an Oiler, an outburst that came after he played in only 26 games the previous season because of a shoulder injury.
Then this happened…
Souray broke his hand trying to be a leader, because somewhere in the hockey code it says that players who’ve never played a full 82-game season over a 12-year career are required to fight to maintain respect. Nothing blinds a player from rational thought quite like Alpha male-syndrome and testosterone.
Upset with his alleged mistreatment from quite literally Day 1 when he arrived in training camp nursing a shoulder injury after signing a five-year, $27 million contract, Souray loudly and infamously voiced his displeasure with the Oilers to Sportnet’s Mark Spector last summer.
A once rosy picture of a fabled organization had quickly changed.
“Management has soured on me, and I’ve soured on them. The fans are great, they’ve accepted me here, I see the jerseys in the stands. I couldn’t have pictured a more opposite vision of what my experience here would be like. What the organization here would be like, overall.”
Now Souray is finally and mercifully getting his wish, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting that the Oilers will place him on unconditional waivers for the purposes of a contract buyout. Souray has one year remaining on his contract, a cap hit that will be spread over two years and cost the organization $3.56 million.
The Oilers deemed Souray to be a character liability and wanted to guard against his potentially damaging influence on their young team. He was banished to the AHL’s Hershey Bears for all of this year, which in turn led to a steep and obvious plummet in his value. Yesterday Kent Wilson outlined the top high salary players available to help a team reach the cap floor, and we can now remove Souray from that list.
Souray’s problems in Edmonton stemmed from communication issues–or at least perceived communication issues–with management. At 34 years old he still carries the baggage of a career riddled with injuries, but that risk is now minimized since he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and be available at a sizable discount.
His salary will still help teams like Florida, Colorado, or Winnipeg that need every penny to reach the cap floor and also wouldn’t mind the presence of a physical veteran on the back end.