With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent decision to waive Jeff Finger and assign him to the AHL’s Marlies, and Sheldon Souray’s continuing presence in the minors, it’s been suggested that the Leafs and the Oilers might be able to help each other out by swapping expensive defencemen.
But rather than being a deal that makes sense for both sides, this strikes me as a deal that makes sense for neither side. Leaving alone the complexities of smuggling the two players back into the NHL past re-entry waivers without either getting claimed, this isn’t a deal that makes sense from a hockey or financial standpoint.
Toronto doesn’t need Souray. Between Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin, the Leafs have more than $19 million invested in their top four defencemen. Luke Schenn and Brett Lebda (once healthy) should round out the top six, and there’s plenty of depth after that. So while the Leafs might be eager to rid themselves of Finger’s contract, it doesn’t make much sense for them to add Sheldon Souray’s $5.4 million cap hit to their blue line.
The Oilers don’t need Finger. Finger’s a perfectly serviceable third-pairing (or preferably seventh) defenceman and has been for his entire career – both before and after Leafs’ G.M. Cliff Fletcher signed him to that ridiculous four year/$14.0 million contract. For all of Souray’s faults, when he’s playing well he at least approaches value for his contract; Jeff Finger never has and it seems implausible that he ever will.
It’s a trade that makes sense for neither side; the Leafs would be getting a player they don’t need and probably don’t want but one that’s close to being worth his contract, while the Oilers would be swapping a useful asset that they can’t use in exchange for a salary cap anchor – and all to save $1.0 million dollars, something they could have done by simply not qualifying Jeff Deslauriers.
I think the Leafs are stuck with Finger, and I suspect that the Oilers are stuck with Souray, and I’m not at all clear on how swapping problems makes sense for either side.