By now, everyone is aware of Sheldon Souray's predicament. He said some unfortunate things in public about the Oilers' way of handling things in the spring and after a long summer of trade rumors he was told not to bother showing up for training camp. For now, he's still an Oiler but certainly won't be playing for the team this season. It's unlikely he will be traded before the start of the season either because he still has two years remaining in his contract with a $5.4 million cap hit. His actual salary is $4.5 million for each year, which is more palatable for a team looking to acquire him but still quite a bit of money for an oft-injured 35-year old who's been exiled from his current team.
He was placed on waivers again today after he already went unclaimed once this summer. I would be surprised if he was picked up right now. The Oilers will likely assign him to Oklahoma of the AHL, where it would be wise of him to report to play. Since the Oilers unwisely barred him from training camp, other teams don't have any concept of what kind of shape he's in or how he's playing so appearing in a handful of games at least down in the AHL might be his only chance to prove himself as still an NHL-caliber defenceman. If he's in good shape and healthy, he should at least find a home on re-entry waivers if the Oilers decide they want to go that route, in which case Edmonton would still be on the hook for half his salary for the next two years. At $4.5 million a year, he's quite a risky investment for a team like Columbus or the New York Islanders working on a budget, at $2.25 million it's a different deal.
Souray has not played a competitive game for a long time and he's appeared in less than 37 games twice in the last three seasons. It's tough to see any team giving up much to Edmonton in a trade, unless it's in the form of an undesirable contract of their own. Oft-mentioned possibilities have him going to Columbus for Mike Commodore, or to Anaheim for Jason Blake. It looks like there's no real trade interest for him anywhere though, so he most likely will end up moving on waivers instead. Columbus and Anaheim are both teams in need of offensive-minded defencemen like Souray so they would make sense from a hockey perspective. However, cap and budget concerns exist for both teams, as well as the Islanders, so it's unlikely they would be willing to absorb Souray's entire salary for two years.
The New York Rangers might emerge as a destination if Souray does wind up on re-entry waivers. The Rangers coincidentally currently employ the only player on an active contract claimed off re-entry waivers in Sean Avery. Souray fills their need for a power play quarterback, supporting second-year defenceman Michael Del Zotto in that role, and they can certainly afford to pay his salary. With Wade Redden exiled to the AHL, there's suddenly even cap space in New York, and Rangers GM Glen Sather is no stranger to bold moves. I would not be surprised to see him eventually end up with the blueshirts, whether off waivers or by trade.
It's only been two years since Sheldon Souray scored 23 goals for a mediocre Oilers team. If he's placed on re-entry waivers, it would make sense for a team like Columbus to take a chance on him, because that kind of powerplay production for a defenceman is very rare to come by. Steve Tambellini made a mistake in excluding him from training camp and tied his own hands by not giving Souray an opportunity to show other teams his condition. While this situation has already dragged on a long time, it should not be long before Souray finds a new home. Although at least initially, it may well just be in the AHL, a league that suddenly seems to be becoming a more and more common destination for aging, overpaid NHL defencemen.