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Thursday, June 30, 2011
Oilers, Jackets to blame for endings with Sheldon Souray, Mike Commodore

By Scott Burnside

Thursday was a parting of the ways for two rugged defensemen and their teams as Sheldon Souray was placed on waivers by the Edmonton Oilers and Mike Commodore was likewise placed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Oilers will buy out the remaining $4.5 million of Souray's contract. If Commodore clears waivers by noon ET Friday, the Blue Jackets will also buy out the remaining two years on Commodore's deal. He was due $6.85 million over the last two years of a five-year deal he signed with Columbus prior to the 2008-09 season.

In both cases, the teams have to bear as much responsibility for having arrived at this rather unpalatable solution of paying money to make players go away. Both teams overpaid for defensive assets because, frankly, that is how life is in markets like Edmonton and Columbus.

That the organizations became disenchanted with both players is no doubt the fault of both player and team, but the fact both were banished to the AHL suggests some significant problems in terms of how those teams handle their players.

Yes, Souray mouthed off about the Oilers last offseason, breaking one of the cardinal rules. But the big man with the big shot indicated before training camp last year he was ready to make the best of the situation. Instead, the Oilers banished him not only to the AHL but to Washington's farm team, refusing to have him in contact with their own prospects.

Shortsighted?

The Oilers were again the worst team in the NHL and got no value for Souray.

How is that good for the team?

Was there not a better way for the team to have seen this play out no matter how annoyed it was with Souray?

Commodore, meanwhile, was sent to the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate in Springfield after playing 20 games in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets missed the playoffs again.

A Cup winner in Carolina, Commodore was never able to fulfill the expectations his contract produced.

General manager Scott Howson already had to explain at last week's draft in Minnesota why he'd just traded former sixth overall pick Nikita Filatov to Ottawa for the 66th pick. Not a good tradeoff, he acknowledged. Now he will pay more money against the cap for a defenseman he signed and now can't stand to have around.

Those are the kinds of significant personnel errors that go a long way to illustrating why this team has yet to win a playoff game.

Speaking of credibility, the Oilers haven't done themselves any favors either in recent days as they first tried to trade an unfit Gilbert Brule to Los Angeles for Ryan Smyth and then moved Colin Fraser, who has an unhealed leg injury and won't be available to the Kings for months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It was clear at the draft that L.A. GM Dean Lombardi wasn't pleased with how the Smyth deal was going down, and this episode will do little to enhance the Oilers' reputation around the league.

As for Souray and Commodore, both are big bodies whose reputations have taken serious hits. They aren't particularly fast, but, for a dramatically reduced price tag and reduced expectations, is there any reason both shouldn't find an NHL home and a chance to redeem themselves?

We're guessing the motivation factor will be enough to ensure that teams taking a chance on either will get full value for their investment. Unlike the Oilers and Blue Jackets.