I’m proud of the Oilers for banishing Sheldon Souray to the AHL.
The AHL demotion isn’t about his talent (or lack of talent) so much as it’s about his attitude.
GM Steve Tambellini decided to take a risk on eating Souray’s salary for the next two years rather than irreparably ruining the chemistry and morale of his team.
It’s a smart move.
Tambellini’s no doubt recognized the Oilers sometimes have trouble attracting free agents.
He also probably recognized the Oilers got into this situation by overpaying Souray to attract him to Edmonton.
Tambellini is establishing that the Oilers will no longer overpay to be loved. The Oilers will look for free agents at least a little interested in playing for the Oilers; they’ll no longer use a big contract to distract a free agent into signing.
It’s fantastic for the team, because it makes players feel like they’re playing someplace desirable and not someplace people need to be overpaid to stay with.
Even though sending Souray to the AHL is a smart move, it would have been much, much easier for Souray to be kept up with the Oilers.
It would have been easier from a trade perspective since he wouldn’t have to pass through waivers.
It would have been easier from a salary perspective, in that Souray’s being paid an awful lot of money to play in front of chocolate enthusiasts.
It also would have been easier from a personnel perspective. If Souray had gotten even some of his game back, he would have been a useful tool for the Oilers to have.
But at this point, Tambellini is wisely trying to cut his losses. The thought of paying half of Souray’s salary over the next two seasons (assuming the Oilers eventually find a trade partner) is much more palatable to him than ruining the chemistry of his team.
It’s a bold move for any GM to make, but it’s especially bold for a small market team like the Oilers, which historically has had to learn to live with its mistakes.
Tambellini is sending a message that while the organization may have to live with its mistakes from financially, his players are by no means obligated to have to play with the organization’s mistakes.
This is much easier to do when the mistake wasn’t yours (Tambellini can thank Kevin Lowe, his predecessor Souray), but it’s still both a tough move and the correct one.
In terms of where Souray might end up, my money is on the Rangers, who seem to be oddly trying to clear cap space via the contracts of Tim Kennedy (who they signed as a free agent this summer) and Todd White.
But since the Devils are finally under the cap (for now), I wouldn’t rule them out as players for Souray, either. The Devils love nothing more than being trapped over the cap and then figuring out a way under at the last minute. I’m beginning to think it might be some kind of bizarre, highly specialized addiction. It’s too bad there’s no NHL trophy for clearing cap space.
The Devils would own that one. Assuming they handle shelf space better than cap space.