EDMONTON — Another big name player wants out of Edmonton, as Sheldon Souray on Sunday uttered those four words that have come to haunt the Oilers franchise:
"I want a trade."
"I do," Souray repeated, sounding a little disappointed at the admission. "Yes, I do want a trade."
If this isn’t rock bottom for the Edmonton Oilers, an organization that never recovered from Chris Pronger’s trade demand in the summer of ‘06, it’s hard to fathom things getting any worse.
The Oilers finished dead last in the National Hockey League this season. Its American Hockey League farm team finished dead last in that league.
The NHL regular season ended on the weekend with Edmonton being dominated by Los Angeles, amazingly winning 4-3 in a shootout despite being outshot 55-16.
On Sunday they rolled over, giving up 45 more shots in a 7-2 loss at Anaheim.
Another 100-shot weekend, another franchise-type player who signed as a free agent in Edmonton, but has had enough with the organization.
"It’s not a players thing. It’s not a fans thing or a city thing. It’s a management thing," Souray said. "They’ve given up on me, and it’s a two-way street.
"I don’t talk to anyone (in management) and I don’t expect to when I check out of here," said Souray, who still has two seasons left on the five-year, $27 million deal then-GM Kevin Lowe signed him to in the summer of 2007. "I don’t really need to talk to them. There isn’t anything to say.
"Management has soured on me, and I’ve soured on them," he continued. "The fans are great, they’ve accepted me here, I see the jerseys in the stands. I couldn’t have pictured a more opposite vision of what my experience here would be like. What the organization here would be like, overall."
Souray grew up in northeastern Alberta as an Oilers fan, has family in the city, and signed with Edmonton because he loved the buzz of the 2006 Stanley Cup run. He is one of those increasingly rare players who prefers to play in a hockey-mad Canadian city, as opposed to being able to live anonymously in any number of American markets.
"I feel now that, when I signed here, I probably was as blinded by their great past as (the Oilers) are," Souray said. "People will question me, that they overpaid me … that it was a bad decision to sign me. But I can tell you this: I turned down more money in other places."
His experience in Edmonton began on the wrong foot for Souray when he arrived at his first training camp nursing a shoulder injury.
"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, but I was being questioned by the organization:‘When are you going to be able to play?’
"I go out, play six games, and I get hurt."
Souray said it wasn’t the training staff applying the pressure; it was "management."
He fought Vancouver’s Byron Ritchie in Game 6 of the 2007-08 season and re-injured his shoulder, missing the next 55 games.
"I got challenged by management on the very first day of my first training camp. The very first day," he said. "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.
"I’ve had the experience of playing in great organizations (in New Jersey and Montreal), and experienced a vastly different approach to things like that. I was a captain in Montreal. I never had my character questioned there, or in New Jersey. I feel that’s all I’ve had since I’ve been here.’"
Fast forward to this season.
Souray missed 16 games with a concussion after being upended into the corner boards by Jarome Iginla on Oct. 8. His season ended Jan. 30 in Calgary when he fought Iginla, breaking a bone in his hand. Souray had surgery, then was re-admitted to hospital when he got a painful infection in his hand.
Though Oilers trainer Ken Lowe was exceptional in keeping daily tabs on Souray’s medical progress, Souray said he never once heard from GM Steve Tambellini. Not even a courtesy call from the GM, who did not respond to a request to speak with sportsnet.ca Sunday evening.
"Maybe they think I’m a black sheep," Souray said. "But it’s not about me — it wouldn’t matter who it happened to. You’d think someone would want to check on the asset, wouldn’t you?
"The Oilers always prided themselves in being a family. Whatever happened to that? I haven’t talked to (Tambellini) since mid-January."
Tambellini will be actively peddling Souray this summer, something he couldn’t do at the trade deadline because of the hand injury. Souray would welcome a trade, but realizes he may have to open the season in Edmonton if Tambellini can’t find a satisfactory deal.
"I still have two years left on my contract. I made a commitment to come here when other guys wouldn’t," he said. "But you talk about Prongs (Chris Pronger) and guys like that, and it should raise an eyebrow when players who leave town are skipping out with a smile on their face."