Defenseman Sheldon Souray has asked to be traded out of Edmonton. Souray still has two years left on a five-year, $27 million deal that the Oilers signed him to before the 2007 season. Unfortunately for the Oilers, this is yet another star player who has either wanted out, or has refused to play in Edmonton.
The three time NHL All-Star defenseman has had an up and down tenure in Edmonton. Souray has been injured for most of this season, only being able to play in 37 games. This absence has really hurt the Oilers. Souray had a great 2008-2009 NHL campaign, scoring 23 goals and adding 30 assists in 81 games, which earned him his third All-Star game appearance. However, it is his first season with the Oilers that is becoming the focal point in this recent fall-out.
Souray has alleged that the Oilers had pressured him to play despite the fact he was injured. He claims that it was not the Oilers' training staff, but management that was pushing him to play injured. This has added fuel to the fire and if true, would look very bad for the entire Oilers organization.
"I got challenged by management on the very first day of my first training camp. The very first day. They said, 'When are you going to play?' I said, 'I have a six month (shoulder) injury and I'm at five months.' But I played."
Souray went on to say, "I wasn't even ready to play when I came here, but it was like, 'We signed you, you go out and play.' I hadn't been cleared to play yet."
Just six games into the 2007-2008 season Souray re-injured the same shoulder in a fight with Byron Ritchie and missed the next 55 games. If this allegation is true it is easy to see why Souray had a bad taste in his mouth right from the beginning with the Oilers.
According to Souray his issues are strictly with the Oilers' management.
"It's not a players thing. It's not a fans thing or a city thing. It's a management thing. They've given up on me, and it's a two way street."
Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini will no doubt be trying to trade Souray near the NHL draft, but it will be difficult to find a suitor given Souray's large contract and injury history. Early reports suggest that the Florida Panthers are very interested in Souray.
This will be a tough pill to swallow for the Edmonton Oilers and their very passionate fan base. From the infamous Michael Nylander snub, who had a contract agreement in place with then Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, only to then sign with the Washington Capitals. Kevin Lowe actually found out about his new impact player signing with Washington on TV. Perhaps the most notable rejection was Chris Pronger, who asked for a trade in 2006 right after the Oilers' cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals. Pronger cited personal reasons for wanting out. And of course Dany Heatley refusing to accept a trade to Edmonton in the 09-10 off-season, even after the Senators and Oilers had reached an agreement.
This will surely add to the stigma that no one wants to play in Edmonton. Very unfortunate for a city that has a very storied and successful tradition.