Defenseman Sheldon Souray told the Edmonton Oilers he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause if there's another team interested in him.
Souray isn't asking out so much as he's letting the Oilers know he's flexible. He's trying to be a helpful team player, but he could be laying the groundwork for the further erosion of the Oilers.
The team will be very tempted to move Souray. He's just the kind of player a lot of teams will want for a playoff run. The struggling Oilers should be able to get a nice return for him.
And they need to make sure he finishes the season in Edmonton.
Souray signed with the Oilers in July 2007 as an unrestricted free agent. What's been forgotten is that Souray held off signing with Edmonton, hoping to get an offer from the Rangers. When the Rangers didn't extend an offer, Souray settled for Edmonton.
That same summer, the Oilers thought they had a deal with center Michael Nylander, but Nylander backed out at the last minute and signed with the Washington Capitals.
This was a few months after Edmonton was forced to trade the beloved Ryan Smyth to the Islanders, because they couldn't work out a deal to re-sign him.
All of this happened the summer after Chris Pronger demanded a trade out of Edmonton, eventually winding up in Anaheim.
And you might recall, Dany Heatley, desperately wanting out of Ottawa, vetoed a trade to Edmonton, risking being stuck as a Senator rather than playing as an Oiler.
Do you notice a pattern here?
Edmonton has trouble attracting free agent talent. For whatever reason, players don't want to go there.
The issue isn't winning. While the Oilers are struggling horribly right now, they were in the Stanley Cup finals as recently as the 2005-06 season.
So what's the issue?
As far as the Oilers are concerned, it really doesn't matter. All they need to recognize is that, for some reason, players don't want to play in Edmonton. So they need to make the team seem as attractive as possible.
Players already hesitant to play in Edmonton won't be comforted by Souray being traded—even with his blessing and consent. Players want to believe a team will hold on to them for the duration of their contract. And they'll gravitate toward teams that seem more likely to keep the players they sign.
So, sure. The Oilers can trade Souray and get something decent back in return. But what will they have lost?
In addition to a fine offensive defenseman, they'll have also lost even more appeal with potential free agents. They'll find themselves even further down the free agent desirability depth chart.
As an organization, Edmonton is well within their rights to pretend they don't have a problem attracting free agent talent. But the reality is some high-profile players have chosen to leave or not come at all.
Whatever the reasons may be, if the Oilers want to have any chance of being a destination for proven NHL talent, they need to make playing for the team as attractive as possible. One way to do that is to hold onto the players they actually do get to sign.
The Oilers are a struggling team. The organization feels they have nothing left to lose in trading Souray. But no one is considering the team's reputation with potential free agents. There really is a lot left to lose.