EDMONTON — Sheldon Souray made it perfectly clear he’s not looking for a way off Edmonton’s sinking ship.
If he didn’t want to be here, for the long haul, he wouldn’t have asked for a no-trade clause when he signed his five-year, $27 million contract in the summer of 2007.
But he’s not about to cling to the wreckage of the SS Katz if it hampers the salvage effort, either. As one of the most significant bargaining chips in Edmonton’s multi-year rebuilding project, he knows it might be best for everyone concerned if they turned him into something younger.
“I came here thinking I’d be here for five years,” said the 34-year-old defenceman, when asked after mini-camp Friday if he plans on holding Edmonton to the no-trade clause, which expires July 1.
“But I wouldn’t at this point hold them back from doing anything that makes the team better.”
At some point that’s likely to happen because the Oilers have come to realize, or will soon, that their current plan is way out of sync, that by the time Edmonton is ready to even think about contending again, at least four or five years down the road, the likes of Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Shawn Horcoff and Nikolai Khabibulin will be significantly diminished assets chewing up huge cap space from the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Anton Lander, who’ll be in their second contracts by then.
“I came here with a goal and you hope to try and see it out, but with where we are right now it’s tough to say if in the next three years we’re going to see that happen,” said Souray.
“Right now we’re having trouble seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. If it does come to a point where they ask me (to OK a trade) I wouldn’t hold the team back.”
He’s the first to admit his Alberta homecoming hasn’t worked out like anyone had hoped.
“When I came here they were one year removed from going to the finals. I hadn’t followed the team all year, but I had an idea the team wasn’t too far from being back in the mould.”
They were too far, and still are.
“The first year I had an injury. Last year, we had some turmoil, we were under-performing again, underachieving. And this year, pick any spot you want and it’s been a disaster.
“It’s tough, it’s taxing, because you take it home with you. You want to be one of those guys who’s counted on. You want to be the guy to step up and put the team on your back and try to carry them a little bit. We haven’t been able to do that.
“I’m one of the guys, if there’s some finger pointing to go around, I have to point the finger at myself and say I could play better.”
They all can, which is why it’s as bad here as it’s been since the mid 90s. Doesn’t mean Souray wants to be in the next plane out, though. He’s simply not going to handcuff management if they find a deal that suits the team, and him, before July 2.
“I signed here for some other reasons besides hockey,” said Souray, who wanted to be closer to his children in California. “If I was going to (give up a no trade) it would have to make sense for me. They can do whatever they want with me next year, but if they want to do it now it has to make sense for me.”
Because Edmonton, for all its spots, isn’t all bad.
“We’re playing absolutely dreadful hockey at home and the fans are still showing up showing their support. You could play great in a place like Phoenix and not have any fans, so the grass isn’t always greener.”