A year ago, we spoke to veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray moments after he signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars. It was, in many ways, a career lifeline thrown to the embattled blueliner who’d run afoul of management in Edmonton and been banished to the American Hockey League before finally being bought out by the Oilers.
His pride dinged-up and his reputation in question, Souray was a model citizen in Dallas, working with the Stars' young defensemen and providing some much-needed snarl. He averaged 20:28 in ice time last season and had 21 points in 64 games. While the Stars couldn’t quite get over the hump and into the playoffs this past spring, Souray’s play reinforced that at age 36, the Elk Point, Alberta, native can still bring it.
Fast-forward to this year, and not only has Souray’s career been revived, but the stars also have aligned in a way that suggests he is ready for even better times as the twilight of his career approaches.
Souray, blessed with a big shot to go with his big 6-foot-4 frame, signed a three-year deal Sunday with the Anaheim Ducks that will pay him $11 million over the life of the deal. Beyond the money, the deal brings rare peace of mind.
After spending his whole career packing up and leaving his two children behind at the start of the season, he will remain a short car ride (depending on California traffic, of course) from his two daughters, who live with their mother in Beverly Hills.
“As we’re all getting older, it’s just getting tougher to say goodbye,” Souray told ESPN.com on Monday.
“It was getting harder and harder to be away from them.”
One daughter will turn 9 in late September, and Souray's other daughter is 5. Having them close by will bring a comfort level that he hasn’t enjoyed in a long time, and he believes it will translate into better play on the ice for a Ducks team that got bigger on the back end on the first day of free agency with the signings of Souray and Bryan Allen.
“I’ve always been a better player when they’re around. You’re just more complete,” Souray said. “There’s a peace of mind that comes with having them around.”
Souray, based in Malibu, regularly skates with California-based NHL players in the offseason, and he was already beginning to dread the annual routine of packing up and heading off to a new NHL hometown.
Now he can concentrate on helping a team that started poorly last year -- costing head coach Randy Carlyle his job -- before rebounding under coach Bruce Boudreau. Ultimately, the Ducks fell short of the playoffs, but there is optimism that it was an aberration for a team that won a Cup in 2007 and made the playoffs in five of the first six seasons after the lockout. Although Souray hasn’t played for Boudreau, he knows something of the former Washington head coach, having played for the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey two seasons ago when the Oilers banished him from the organization.
All the staff and players in Hershey “raved about Bruce,” Souray said.
“It’s awesome,” Souray said of this new chapter in his hockey tale. “I think I can bring some of the X factors they have [been] searching for the last couple of years.”