News that Sheldon Souray had been put on waivers passed through the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, then quietly disappeared Thursday, much like the sorry saga involving the veteran defenceman and his stalled career.
Without issuing a news release, without making general manager Steve Tambellini available to the media (beyond the team's radio rights holder), the Oilers swept Souray under the rug by putting him on waivers so he and his hefty contract ($9-million U.S. over two years) could end up in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons.
The decision to ship Souray to the minors was made after Tambellini tried to trade the 34-year-old defenceman and found no takers. Earlier this week, the New York Rangers dangled high-priced defenceman Wade Redden as trade bait before sending him to their AHL affiliate.
The Oilers had told Souray not to come to training camp after he openly asked for a trade, saying he had been rushed back into the lineup last season still bothered by a hand injury. The Oilers denied the claim, stewed over it, then figured they were better off having a tradeable asset sitting out than skating with the team.
Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff, likely to be named captain this season, said the players were aware Souray had been placed on waivers. Beyond that, he underlined his concern was with those who were in the Oilers' room, not the ones who weren't.
"Not having Shelly here has been easier on all of us," Horcoff said of Souray, who signed with Edmonton in 2007. "We haven't had to deal with it every day because we would have been asked about it by the media. Hopefully it works out best for both sides. Shelly's a good teammate, but it's a business."
According to speculation and media reports, the Oilers have discussed a Souray trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets and may have also spoken with the New York Islanders, who recently lost defenceman Mark Streit to a shoulder injury. The Islanders could use Souray's blueline presence and power-play skills and have oodles of cap space to accommodate him.
If a team claims Souray, the Oilers would still have to pay half his salary. Souray has declined to comment.
Along with Souray, the Oilers waived 36-year-old goaltender Martin Gerber, who was signed in the off-season as a free agent. Gerber was targeted for Oklahoma City, but could be claimed off waivers Friday. He has a two-way contract that will pay him $500,000 (U.S.) if he's in the NHL and $200,000 (U.S.) if he's in the AHL.
The other Oilers sent to Oklahoma City on Thursday were defencemen Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Alex Plante and forward Colin McDonald.
The Oilers play host to the Calgary Flames Friday night, then play in Calgary on Sunday.