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.

Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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