The New York Rangers got an eyeful of exiled defenceman Sheldon Souray over the weekend, but didn’t like what they saw.
As a result, the NHL club will be moving on in its search for a powerplay defenceman.
“You want to like him,” said a source familiar with the Rangers activities over the weekend. “But you can’t deny what your eyes are seeing.”
Rangers scouts dispatched to three Hershey Bears games over the weekend came away with serious concerns over Souray’s foot speed at the American League level, let alone how that pace would translate to the National Hockey League.
Too many speedsters were beating Souray at the AHL level for the Rangers to convince themselves that the shunned Edmonton Oilers defenceman could help them at the NHL level.
Souray went plus-3 with an assist in the three games, bringing his stats up to three goals, 11 points and a plus-8 in 22 games this season. But his game slowed down markedly as the weekend progressed, and it is unlikely Rangers GM Glen Sather will be calling his counterpart Steve Tambellini in Edmonton about the 6-4, 233-pound 34-year-old.
On Saturday, after a 2-0 loss in Montreal, Rangers head coach John Tortorella complained post-game about a powerplay that went 0-for-4 in the game, and is ranked 23rd in the NHL.
“I’m really frustrated with a few guys on the power play,” Tortorella said. “I don’t want to run down anyone, but we don’t have a legitimate power play quarterback. I’ve used Zuke (Mats Zuccarello) there, but I’m not sure…”
“The (Rangers) job was his to lose,” the source said of Souray.
Souray still has his formidable shot from the point on the powerplay, but at even strength he was seen as a liability at the AHL level.
Assuming other organizations are making the same evaluation, it seems unlikely the Oilers will receive any interest that would lead Tambellini to put Souray on re-entry waivers. Under that scenario, the Oilers and the team picking Souray up would split the remainder of Souray’s contract — $5.4 million cap hit, $4.5 million salary — which runs through next season.
The most likely scenario would have Edmonton buying Souray out this summer, and being forced to eat two-third of the final year of his contract, spread over the next two seasons.