Instant Analysis: Sami Salo Returns!

Jonathan Willis
July 01 2011 10:03AM

Over the last couple of days, we’ve seen some crazy money handed out to defensemen slated for unrestricted free agency. Somehow, Christian Ehrhoff landed a deal for a decade, and James Wisniewski is going to make more than $5.0 million per season.

In that kind of climate, the Canucks undoubtedly got themselves a great deal when earlier today Sami Salo agreed to a one-year, $2.0 million contract.

As Scott Lewis points out, this represents a pretty massive drop from Salo’s contract – he had been earning $3.5 million per season. While the dollar figure is a nice break for Vancouver, equally fortunate is the term – Salo had been rumoured to be looking for a multi-year pact, and given that the 36-year old hasn’t had a 70-game season yet in the post-lockout NHL that would have been a relatively significant risk for the Canucks.

Salo struggled in an injury-shortened 2010-11, but given that he only got 27 games of regular season action in after missing most of the year, I don’t know that this represents anything other than an injured player trying to get back into the thick of things. It was the first time since 2003-04 that Salo had failed to score at least five power play goals, and it was the first time in his entire NHL career that Salo finished a season as a minus player.

At this point in his career I don’t know that Salo is an ideal fit for the role he was playing in 2009-10 – tough opponents, lots of defensive zone starts, so I would expect that he handles the same role he did in this year’s post-season run: fifth defenseman. He’s a guy who brings a solid two-way game, including the ability to fill in on the power play and a physical dimension, and the Canucks are doing pretty well if he’s anchoring the third pairing.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this signing represents a win for Vancouver, and with Ehrhoff’s departure this was more of a necessary decision than I thought it was going to be back in April.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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