While I’ve got my doubts that Steve Tambellini has ever read 1984, his latest comments on Sheldon Souray display a grad student level mastery of the concept of Newspeak. Wikipedia’s got a good article on Newspeak – this is the gist of it:
Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—”thoughtcrime”, or “crimethink” in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
Jim Matheson has been beating the “When will the Oilers trade Sheldon Souray?” drum off and on throughout the season. I’ve been a bit mystified by it because the Oilers can’t trade Souray without him clearing re-entry waivers and if a team was willing to trade for him, one would think they’d be even more excited in getting him at half his salary with no trade value. Matheson went back to the well though and came up with this from Tambellini, on the possibility of moving Souray on waivers:
“I would like to get an asset for Sheldon. If that’s not a player or draft pick, then the asset is the money we would be saving — half of what he’s owed,” Tambellini said. “If something doesn’t work out now, then we will try again this summer.”
(Let’s just talk about how bad Sheldon Souray’s contract is for a minute. He has played 144 NHL games since he signed it and he’s been paid about $21MM so far. That’s $11.96MM per 82 games played. Rick DiPietro has been paid $22MM since signing his much ridiculed contract and played 159 NHL games. That’s $11.34MM per 82 games.)
Back to Tambo’s quote. It makes no sense. If he has to give Souray away and pay half the freight to be rid of him, he’s not “getting an asset” – he’s cutting the Oilers losses. While cutting certain losses is always a good thing to do, it’s not getting an asset. That’s limiting your losses. As it stands, Souray’s owed something like $6.5MM. What Tambo is trying to do is turn a complete fiasco of a contract into something more positive by painting Souray’s (presumed) departure as gaining an asset, because they get “an asset” in the form of someone else paying him half the money he’s owed.
Referring to the money you have to pay Souray if someone takes him on recall waivers as a sunk cost sounds bad; claiming that you got an asset back because you no longer have to pay him half of the money he’s owed sounds good. “The Oilers management doesn’t cut losses; they accumulate assets. Assets are good, so management is good. I love Big Brother.” Dystopian!
Now one wonders: if you could get “an asset” by waiving Souray, why wouldn’t you do it? Well, Tambellini’s got a strategy:
“Until I get a call from a team saying they’re interested in Sheldon, I won’t be putting him on re-entry (waivers). Have I had a call yet from anybody? No, I haven’t.”
“If there’s interest in Sheldon, I’m sure somebody’s going to call.”
It is entirely conceivable that it is not, in fact, the case that somebody will call if there’s interest in Souray. Consider the following situation: you’re the GM of another NHL team that could use a defenceman. You like the idea of Souray at half-price, although you’d rather not have the extra year on his deal and would prefer to just pick somebody up at the trade deadline.
You can’t be certain if you’re going to get the guys that you’d prefer. You also can’t be certain that someone else wouldn’t grab Souray if he was put on recall waivers. I would suggest that, in those entirely plausible circumstances, you specifically wouldn’t tell the Oilers that you were interested in Souray. As soon as he goes onto recall waivers, you have to decide whether to take him or run the risk that someone else takes him, you end up getting skunked in a trade and you get nothing. Why would you force the “bird on the hand or two in the bush” decision on yourself until you had to?
There’s another angle on this too. Tambellini’s desire for certainty that someone will take Souray if he moves him comes at a price. Souray is currently costing the Oilers something like $23,000 per day. In October of this year, when Souray was about to be sent down, there was some thought that the Oilers would sit on him for a year and then try and move him for something in the summer when there was only one year left on his contract. While I wasn’t wild about the risk there, it was an idea that I saw making at least some sense as a concept – the Oilers were basically going to gamble $2.25MM on being able to get something back – even if I didn’t think that the risk/reward combination made sense. There was at least a thought process that I understood.
Judging by this story though, that’s not the case. If they’re willing to take the “asset” that they’ll get in the form of salary savings though, the policy of waiting until someone phones Tambellini and says he’s interested makes no sense. That “asset” gets about $11.5K crappier every day. By refusing to put Souray on re-entry waivers, he permits people who might have an interest in Souray to defer their decision.
I’ve considered the possibility that this is all a clever way to try and generate some consideration in exchange for making Souray available – maybe someone agrees to make a trade that provides you with some marginal gain if they get Souray on re-entry waivers. That seems unlikely to me though – the Oilers have now paid Souray something like $1.5MM or so that they could have avoided if they’d put him on re-entry waivers at the start of the year and he’d been claimed. Whatever Tambellini gets in return for putting him on re-entry waivers now and having the right team claim him to trigger the subsequent exchange of value, it won’t be worth $1.5MM.
There is talent on this Oilers team and you can see the possibility of good things in the future. Until they lose the inept management (and do something about Khabby, a by-product of the inept management, as well as address some of the other problems created by the bad management), their ceiling is going to be limited. Or, as Tambo might put it, a team that could be plusgood or goodest will remain as an ungood one.