It's July 26th and Steve Tambellini has wrapped up his vacation and has one major item left to check off of his "to do" list: find a new home for Sheldon Souray. Like Tyler has said repeatedly, Tambellini has done an above-average job on the easy stuff thus far during the off-season, but there is difficult work still to be done. Tambellini chose to waive Souray, but even if a contending team wanted Souray, they weren't going to bite at the waivers bait. The only contending team that could add Souray without needing to dump salary is the Capitals, and the only other playoff threat that could add a $5,400,000 cap hit is the Kings, but at the time of the waivers transaction, they were waiting for Godot.
Does the possibility remain that Souray may yet be traded? I think so, but it's going to look a bit worse than the return for Simon Gagne. Gagne, when healthy, is a terrific player, but injury concerns plague him. Combine that with his no-trade clause and the Flyers cap problems and the best that Paul Holmgren could do was a 4th round pick and $1,700,000 in dead cap space that goes by the name of Matt Walker. Don't expect much more for Souray.
Complicating matters for Tambellini is the fact that Willie Mitchell remains unsigned and Kevin Bieksa needs a new home. If a team is in the market for a mean, physical rearguard, Mitchell fits the bill. If it's offensive upside with a bit of scrappiness that's needed, Bieksa is your man.
After the jump we'll look at some possible destinations for Souray, and the ins, outs and what-have-yous of each:
Sabres - Buffalo lost two top-notch defenders when Henrik Tallinder signed in New Jersey and Toni Lydman signed with Anaheim. The Sabres responded by signing Jordan Leopold, but they remain a man short on the blueline. For some strange reason, rumors that Darcy Regier wants to trade Tim Connolly have been floating around since the day after the Sabres were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If Regier does want to deal Connolly and his $4,000,000 cap hit, Edmonton desperately needs a center to play second minutes, so this seems like a perfect fit. Edmonton has been trying to trade Andrew Cogliano since last summer, and he might be the guy that gets a deal like this done.
Devils - I've talked about the Devils as a destination for Souray's services once before. Should the Devils lose out on Ilya Kovalchuk's services, would Lou Lamoriello be interested in Souray? I believe so - they need power play help and could use some offense from the blueline. The Oilers could take Bryce Salvador's $2,900,000 salary back and the Devils would still have enough cap space to sign someone like Alexei Ponikarovsky. Of course, the availability of Bieksa complicates matters.
Sharks - The Sharks have a pressing need to upgrade the defense in front of Antero Niittymaki and Thomas Greiss. They tried the offer sheet route with restricted free agent Niklas Hjalmarsson and failed. Why they would send Hjalmarsson an offer sheet when Nicklas Grossman is still an unsigned restricted free agent is beyond my comprehension. Mitchell remains an option for them, but if they don't want to sign him and can't find another RFA, Souray might make sense. The Oilers would likely have to take the expiring contract of third pairing defender Kent Huskins ($1,700,000) and two years of bottom-six forward Torrey Mitchell ($1,366,667) to make the numbers work.
Ducks - The Ducks are in an odd position - they have Jonas Hiller, possibly the best goalie in the league, Ryan Getzlaf, one of the best centers in the Western Conference, Lubomir Visnovsky, a first-rate offensive defenseman and a pair of wingers in Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry who have already won a Stanley Cup. Even if Ryan signs a contract in the $5,000,000+ range, the Ducks will have $10,000,000 in cap space left for James Wisniewski and a seventh defenseman. But the Ducks defense is a mess right now, and fans are getting a bit antsy. Sure, they signed , but they lost Scott Niedermayer, and their biggest physical threat is... they don't have one. Wisniewski is headed to arbitration seeking $4,000,000 per season and the Ducks might walk away at that number. If that happens, the Ducks would have loads of cap space and a gaping hole to fill. Sportsnet has repeatedly reported that Ducks' General Manager Bob Murray has called Mike Gillis about Bieksa.
And finally, the two destinations that hit closest to home:
Barons - Souray in Oklahoma CIty is a non-starter. I know that some Edmonton fans believe Souray needs some time in the minors to "open his eyes" and "make him work for it", but in reality, not even Mike Milbury would go to all of the trouble of creating an entirely new minor league franchise, hire a brand new coaching staff, and sign a gaggle of minor league veterans, only to dump the team's biggest problem there to watch what happens in some bizarre Hockey Rink Of Dr. Moreau experiment.
Oilers - Bringing Souray back to the team might actually be the best move for everyone involved. Edmonton needs another second-pairing defender and they have the cap space to keep Souray. Souray needs to show that he's healthy and that he can play a full season. If he can stay away from the fights that seem to end every other season - and Tambellini brought in Jim Vandermeer to do the dirty work on the blue - Souray might be able to last until the trade deadline, where his value might have improved to the point that the Flames would take him for a 3rd round pick.
In order to pull something like this off, some Yukon-sized egos must be packed away for the next eight months, and some fresh wounds must be healed, superficially at least. Tambellini could pitch it as parts of Sheldon's insight being correct and Souray could pitch it as Tambellini changing the culture of the team. If they could hold that together for the next eight months, everyone could walk away happy.