I don't know if Souray will be back, but I do know that he actually smiled when I took this picture in the locker room.
"I'd like to stay here," Sheldon Souray told Dallas media six weeks ago at the conclusion of the season. "I think they have a real good thing going. I know they're going to make changes...If anyone thinks they're not making changes then we're all a little naive. Hopefully they see me as part of the solution moving forward."
Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi spoke at length with the Bob and Dan Show on Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket last week and when the subject of what to do with the unrestricted free agent came up the new boss indicated that the door is indeed still open for #44 to return to Glen Gulutzan's blue line.
"I know there were discussions late in the season with him, and I know that Joe is pretty clear on where Shelly would like to be and where he'd like to go, so add that to the list of big decisions that Joe has to make."
Souray indicated in April that the Stars had "tested the water" but clearly no decision has been reached. He added that he obviously has to look at what's out there if it gets to July 1st, but also stated "I really like it here. I don't want to leave." Emphasis on the really was his. Not mine.
"It's a tough call because I like what he does for our group" Gaglardi told Bob and Dan. "I think he gives our group a lot of courage. Having that guy back there...you can be a little feistier when you know that guy's in the lineup because you know he's going to have your back."
The question for Dallas is likely about term and dollars. At the right price (last year's for instance) he's a steal and a solid add whatever else is done in free agency.
What does a decision either way on Souray tell us about the Stars' plan for their defense, and is he a viable fall-back option if trying to land a big piece in a dry market fails? That and more Gaglardi quotes after the jump...
"He's a mean player," opined Gaglardi. "He's a guy that's had success against elite players in the league. There's guys that don't like to go to the net when he's out there because they know they're going to get their forearms chopped. He's not a fun guy to play against."
Dallas is short on guys that aren't fun to play against on the back end. The future role of Mark Fistric seems uncertain, and the core group on the blue line moving forward (Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, Philip Larsen) is skilled, but small, and it lacks physicality. Mobility reigns in today's NHL, but size and 'nasty' are still needed.
"On the flip side we've got guys, young guys, that I think are the future that need to play - That are ready to play," said Gaglardi. "Like a Brenden Dillon. Maybe Jamie Benn's brother Jordie, who I think has looked pretty good at this level. So the question is where are we going to be there. Is free agency going to change anything? There are some big questions to answer yet."
Galgardi's verbiage seems clear. There were discussions. They know where Souray wants to be, and when they say that it's probably more of a statement about term and role than it is about geography. Though Souray turns 36 years old this July there's still a thought out there that he will want a multi-year (2) deal, and that he'll want a well-deserved increase in pay after a pretty solid season in Dallas.
Souray also made a point in his exit interview to say he wants to play "in all situations." He mentioned it repeatedly. He was the Stars third busiest penalty killer and played over 20 minutes per game. That evidence leads one to believe he's speaking of the power play and his diminished role there as the year wore on - But this is guesswork on my part.
The Stars front office has uniformly said that they need to get better on the blue line and that ideally they'd like a significant acquisition in that area. We all know that the free agent market is thin. We know Suter might not even get to it. (We also know that Suter's going to be way overpaid wherever he goes).
So the questions that come to mind on Souray are these:
- Isn't Souray more of a "plan B"-type option for Dallas?
- Will he even still be available to talk "plan B" on, say, July 2nd or 3rd?
- Does he really want to come back here? He's turning 36, he hasn't played in a post-season game since 2006. He's never been to a Conference Final. Why not try to play for cheap on a team that's (more) clearly going somewhere if you're him?
- Will he wait to see what Dallas wants to do and give them that consideration while listening to other offers, or will pursuing others in front of him be enough to send him firmly in another direction?
Much depends on the Stars' thoughts on their young defensemen in the system. If they feel that Brenden Dillon or Jordie Benn, or much less likely, Nemeth or Oleksiak can step in next season and contribute in a pinch, for cheaper, then they'll be relaxed knowing that in their minds they have options.
If not then the stakes get higher. A whiff on a big (or at least more desirable) free agent leaves them looking at the Jeff Woywitka's of the world if Souray goes elsewhere, and they've played that game several seasons in a row now. Souray may not be a part of the long-term future but he could continue to be a reliable stop-gap at a reasonable price if it's handled delicately. Known commodities on defense, even those that don't necessarily make you better, are something of a luxury item on July 1st.
"I really favor a young, fast team," added Gaglardi, "but having said that you do need guys like Shelly around so it will be an interesting decision for the club."
Perhaps they can have their cake and eat it too. Maybe Sheldon Souray could add just another year here, the Stars could find an upgrade in free agency for their top or second pairing, and a younger guy could impress in training camp. If the Stars are willing (and perhaps forced by this mystery youngster) to make a tough decision about Adam Pardy's contract the defense could look something like this.
Alex Goligoski - Free Agent
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Philip Larsen/Other Young Kid With Strong Camp?
Or arrange those pieces any way you like. It's a little optimistic, but Mr. Gaglardi's presence allows us all to let our minds wander freely for the first time in a long time. Any way it happens, it will still be a far cry from what Stars fans saw for two seasons under Marc Crawford:
What path should Dallas take on Souray and the defense?