Gillis’ inaction today bothered Canucks fans, who are quick to point out that, while the team has most of its high-end core locked up, the roster only managed to win one postseason game this Spring and is clearly in need of augmentation and improvement. To rub salt in the wound, the team lost out on Unrestricted Free-Agent defenseman Sami Salo, who has signed a two year deal worth 7.5 million dollars with the Tampa Bay Lightning:
Sammy Salo signed a two year deal with Tampa for $3.75m per year.
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) July 1, 2012
Sami Salo is a battler, and a very intelligent defenseman. He once took a Duncan Keith slap-shot in the balls during a playoff game, was taken to hospital, and returned to play in the very next game. Beyond that, Salo was a Canuck for 9 seasons and was a classy, low-key guy who led in the room, and carried himself well both on and off the ice. For his tenacity in always battling back from a myriad of injuries, for his loyalty to the organization, and for his persona in the community – he was beloved by the Canucks fan-base.
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For the past few years, Salo had signed with the Canucks for well below market value, and played competent hockey in the top-four. During his time in Vancouver, Salo improved the accuracy of his shot and was an often times lethal weapon on the power-play – especially when the team had a two man-advantage, or a 4-on-3 advantage. Salo also developed extraordinary chemistry with the Sedin twins, and was the best fit the team has ever found to play on Alex Edler’s right-side.
While Salo’s calming presence will be missed, his performance deteriorated significantly during the course of this past season, which, is to be expected of a 37 year old defenseman (he’ll turn 38 before next season starts) with Salo’s injury history. It looks to me like Salo has reached a point in his career where it’s a stretch to envision him as a tough-minutes option in a top-four role. Sadly, at 3.75 million with two years of term – this is a bet that Mike Gillis was probably wise to walk away from.
I realize that won’t soften the blow for many Canucks fans, for whom Sami Salo is the personification of what is good about Canucks hockey, but the NHL is a business. With Chris Tanev’s emergence as a more attractive option in the top-four, and Salo’s underlying numbers cratering – the deal Sami ultimately signed with Tampa simply wouldn’t have made much sense for the Canucks.
Hopefully Sami Salo has success in the twilight of his career in Tampa. He will certainly be missed by hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest.