Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On the Team's Options With Sheldon Souray

*UPDATED Jun 30th

The NHL buyout window closes on Thursday, June 30th and any player that is to be bought out by a club must first clear through unconditional waivers. This means that the Oilers are running out of time with this option on defenseman Sheldon Souray. In order to meet the NHL deadline, the Oilers would have to place Souray on waivers no later than Tuesday Thursday.

Sheldon Souray is entering the final year of his 5 year $27M contract. While the annual cap hit on Souray is $5.4M his actual salary for the final year will be $4.5M. The Oilers have the option of buying out the last year of Souray's contract at 2/3 of the remaining value, or $3M spread out over 2 years. According to CapGeek the buyout cap hit for the next two seasons would be $2.4M for 2011-2012 and $1.5M for 2012-2013.

Steve Tambellini attempted to find a trading partner for Souray last week at the NHL Entry Draft but found no takers. Not even the Florida Panthers who are trying to take on salary in order to meet the NHL cap floor were interested, opting to trade for Brian Campbell and his $7.2M cap hit for the next 5 years instead. Based on the overwhelming lack of interest in Souray at last year's trade deadline and this year's draft, it's clear that GMs around the league no longer view Souray as a productive NHL defenseman. The fact that he only scored 4-15-19 in 40 games in the AHL last season didn't help his cause either.

At this point, what are the Oilers' options with Souray? At his pre-draft media availability, Tambellini gave the impression that a return with the Oilers for this upcoming season was unlikely. Interestingly though, it seems the slight majority of Oilers fans would be willing to give Souray another chance. Adding more to the debate is the fact that today the Oilers decided not to offer qualifying offers to both Zack Stortini and JF Jacques, making them both unrestricted free agents on July 1st. While not the most offensively gifted or defensively responsible Oilers this past season, they both provided an element of size and at times some toughness to the lineup, Stortini moreso than Jacques. While it was no surprise to see the organization part ways with these two players, it is still a bit of a loss on a team that is trying to become harder to play against. Looking at the Oilers roster, the only player that is currently under contract that consistently brings this element with his game is Theo Peckham, and as tough as he is he can't do it alone. While Souray may not be able to provide consistent offense at the NHL level anymore, he still plays with an edge and can bring that toughness to the lineup.

So is the added physicality that comes with Souray worth $4.5M as well as the risk that comes with bringing his attitude back into the dressing room? In my opinion it still isn't. The Oilers this week made a step forward when they brought back Ryan Smyth, as his character is the kind that should be setting an example for the younger players. Having Souray around to potentially counter that would simply defeat the purpose. The money saved by buying out Souray could be better spent on other players that could bring that same toughness. Re-signing Jim Vandermeer at a reasonable contract would be a start, and signing one of Ben Eager or Zenon Konopka, should they hit unrestricted free agency, would be a plus. It's time to cut ties with Sheldon Souray and move on with this new Oilers team and this new Oilers culture.

UPDATE Jun 28th: Sheldon Souray was not placed on 48hr unconditional waivers today indicating that he will not be bought out if my understanding of the waiver rules is correct. Steve Tambellini will likely continue to pursue a trade in the offseason as there may be teams interested if they miss out on potential UFA signings. However if an Oilers player elects to go to salary arbitration prior to the July 5th deadline, there is another buyout window in August after the hearings.

UPDATE Jun 29th: According to Aaron Portzline (@aportzline) of the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets will place Mike Commodore on waivers this Thursday with the intention of buying out his contract. Thus players do not need to clear waivers prior to the June 30th deadline, but rather only need to be placed on waivers before then. So therefore a buyout is still an option until tomorrow for the Oilers with Souray. In other news, the NHL CBA is confusing.

UPDATE Jun 30th: Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMckenzie) tweeted this morning that the Oilers had placed Sheldon Souray on unconditional waivers with the purpose of buying out the remaining year on his contract.

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