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(Todd Korol)
(Todd Korol)

Globe on Hockey

Souray trade just a matter of time Add to ...

Sheldon Souray's future with the Edmonton Oilers was sealed months ago when he asked out because he no longer saw eye-to-eye with the organization. Now, it's just a matter of how long it takes general manager Steve Tambellini to find him a new NHL home, given that in the salary-cap era, these are the hardest deals of all to make: Swapping a player coming off an injury-filled 37-game season who earns $4.5-million in actual dollars per season for the next two years (but carries a cap hit of $5.4-million) - expensive, in other words, for the risks involved in making the move.

Most of the chatter the past couple of days involves a possible move to Columbus, which makes sense on multiple levels. The Blue Jackets have long had a need for a power-play quarterback; their general manager Scott Howson came to Columbus from Edmonton and has deep ties to the Oilers organization; and they too have a salary-cap problem by the name of Mike Commodore that they'd probably be willing to swap the other way.

Columbus overpaid for both Commodore and Kristian Huselius a couple of years back, because - without any sort of winning tradition - it was having trouble recruiting players as unrestricted free agents. Most of the A-list players were getting their money no matter what, and often had a choice of destination.

Commodore earns less per season than Souray, but his contract goes longer. The overall dollars remaining on their respective deals - $10.65 for Commodore over three years, $9-million for Souray over two - make the numbers close to a wash.

Souray of course isn't practising with the Oilers, so it would require a leap of faith for Columbus to bring him in because of health concerns. Nor would Columbus necessarily be Souray's destination of choice - that would be California or possibly some team on the Eastern Seaboard - so the Blue Jackets would have to be convinced that Souray was all in, committed to the team, to the area and to the organizational philosophy before any trigger on a deal will be pulled.

That essentially is the larger issue beyond the dollars for the respective GMs, Howson and Steve Tambellini: Assessing the impact that Souray and Commodore would have on their respective dressing rooms. When you operate two teams full of young, impressionable up-and-comers who are still finding their way in the NHL, that becomes a primary concern.

The quality that both players share is they have these big, open personalities which - in this say-nothing era in professional sport - tends to be discouraged and often gets taken the wrong way. Souray got himself into trouble in Edmonton by answering a question about his future honestly. Probably, as a career move, he would have been better off hiding behind an off-the-record remark. It's safer - and it keeps you out of the eye of a public storm. Commodore isn't much given to hiding from the microphones; you ask him about anything, he usually has an answer for you. I got to know Commodore a little during the Flames' run to the 2004 Stanley Cup final and he gained more notoriety for growing out that big bushy afro as he did for his play on the ice (where, as the seventh defenceman going in, he moved way up the depth chart because of injuries to Toni Lydman and Denis Gauthier).

Commodore became a better player than I ever thought he would because his skating looked as if it would limit him. But he is a 110-per center who probably shouldn't play any higher than a No. 5 on the depth chart and like a lot of players in this era, is a victim of the contract he signed. Commodore at $1.5-million is attractive to about 25 teams in the league. Commodore at a cap charge of $3.75-million is a salary-cap albatross.

Souray I like too. I kept running into him in Sweden during the lockout - he played for Farjestad, a team that also had Zdeno Chara and for a time Mike Comrie. No North American player embraced the experience better than Souray did - and his willingness to deal with the different lifestyle and not look for a Starbucks on every corner the way so many of his contemporaries did was commendable and lauded by the Swedes, who seemed to use him in every pre-game show during the Eliteserien final that year because he was so chatty and so often.

The important thing is that even if they are larger than life characters, neither Commodore nor Souray is a bad guy - and that's critical for any team worried about tampering with fragile chemistry and impressionable personalities.

So it will be interesting to see how the conversation evolves - and if it actually turns into something more than just testing the waters. Most times, these sorts of talks die because there are too many variables in play and ultimately just gets too complicated. Once in a while, a couple of motivated and inspired GMs find a fit - and make it work. For all of the principals, this should be one of those times.

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