PENTICTON, B.C. – The testy relationship between the Edmonton Oilers and defenceman Sheldon Souray has worsened as the NHL club has told the player to stay away from training camp starting Friday.
Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini responded Monday night to reports earlier in the day that Souray, who requested a trade last season, had softened his stance and planned to attend camp.
“There’s no misunderstanding. We’re very clear,” Tambellini told reporters at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. “That’s why we’re speaking today to the fact that he will not be attending camp.”
Souray, 34, missed 45 games last season with a concussion and broken right hand suffered in a fight with Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
In addition to the trade request, Souray accused management of pressuring him to come back from off-season shoulder surgery before he was ready to play at the start of the 2007-08 season. Tambellini has called the accusation “demonstrably untrue.”
Souray is entering the fourth season of a five-year contract worth US$27 million with the Oilers.
“We’ve been trying to move the player for some time obviously,” Tambellini said. “Sheldon has expressed strong interest over a long period of time that it’s best for him to move and we’re going to try and help him with that. I couldn’t get that done prior to this camp.
“I hope to get it done during camp, but it’s best for the Oilers for him not to be at camp right now.”
Tambellini said he informed player agent Paul Theofanous last week that Souray was not welcome at camp. Theofanous did not immediately reply to a voice message or e-mail from The Canadian Press.
Souray missed 58 games in 2007-08 after re-injuring his surgically repaired shoulder in a fight with Byron Ritchie of Vancouver. He played 81 games in 2008-09, registering 23 goals and 53 points.
After trying unsuccessfully to move Souray and the $9 million remaining on his contract over the summer, Tambellini placed him on waivers.
The Oilers GM didn’t feel bringing Souray to camp and allowing him to demonstrate his fitness would make it easier to move the six-foot-four, 223-pound defenceman from Elk Point, Alta., to another team.
“I don’t think that’s going to make a difference,” Tambellini said. “All reports are that he’s healthy. I understand he’s been in Edmonton for a couple of days training, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”
When asked if there were any overtures Souray could make to get back in the Oilers’ good graces, Tambellini replied: “No, we’re sticking with our plan.”