PENTICTON, B.C. – After asking for a trade 18 months ago and then publicly criticizing management last April, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray reacted matter-of-factly to the news the Oilers don’t want him around when training camp opens.
“Things are pretty clear right now,” Souray said Tuesday. “My agent and (GM Steve Tambellini) can discuss whatever. I mean, it hasn’t changed my focus of being ready and being prepared whenever I get a chance. Other than that, there’s not too much to say.”
On Monday night, Souray’s agent Paul Theofanus was informed in writing that his client isn’t welcome at the Oilers camp—despite being under contract for two more years.
Tambellini followed that by issuing a news release and reiterating his position to reporters in Penticton, B.C., where 29 prospects are taking part in a five-team rookie tournament.
Souray, 34, has been skating with a handful of teammates at a suburban rink in preparation for camp after missing the final 29 games of last season with a broken hand.
“I’m disappointed not to be going to camp because I’ve worked all summer to be in camp,” Souray said. “That’s alright. I mean, there’s a lot of positive things to focus on here in Edmonton.
“A lot of changes have been made and there’s certainly a good feeling coming into camp with the team this year. That should be the focus.”
On Monday, Souray spoke about being ready to attend camp, despite the long-standing trade request Tambellini hasn’t been able to accommodate and unflattering comments he made about the organization last spring. It didn’t take Tambellini long to respond.
“We’re going to have to find a way,” Tambellini said of attempts to trade Souray. “Sheldon has expressed a strong interest over a long period of time that it’s best for him to move. We’re going to try and help him with that.
“I couldn’t get that done prior to camp. I hope to get it done through camp, but it’s best for the Oilers, for him, not to be at camp.”
Shawn Horcoff, the longest serving Oiler with former captain Ethan Moreau and defenceman Steve Staios gone, skated with Souray on Tuesday.
“He’s a good guy and a it’s a tough situation,” said Horcoff. “Management has made their decision. It’s not really up to the players. We don’t have a say in any of that. It’s really out of our hands.
“I think both sides are probably frustrated that it’s gone this far. What are you going to do? That’s where it’s at. For us, as players, there’s nothing we can really do to make anything happen with either side.”
According to Tambellini, Souray first asked to be traded at the end of the 2008-09 season. Souray reiterated that desire last April after his broken hand, suffered in a fight with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, hampered attempts to move him by the NHL trade deadline.
The relationship further soured when Souray made his discontent known at the end of the season, one in which the Oilers finished 30th overall with just 62 points from a 27-47-8 record.
“It’s not a players thing. It’s not a fans thing or a city thing. It’s a management thing,” Souray told Sportsnet.ca at the time. “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. 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. 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.”