Sami Salo is back, well, almost. He’s been skating for a long time now, and has been practicing and traveling with the team for a couple of weeks also. So when is he set to return? The Canucks are keeping this somewhat secretive, but it looks to be soon.
The reason is of course the salary cap. The Canucks are very close to the cap right now and will be over it when Salo returns. According to CapGeek, the Canucks would need to get rid of $1.8 million of annual salary if Salo returned today.
If the Canucks are smart, they’ll keep Salo on long term injury reserve as long as possible. I expect this to happen because the longer he stays on IR, the more that $1.8 million number goes down. They’ll also have the option of putting him in Manitoba on a conditioning stint to stall for more time before returning. But with that said, they’ll make a mockery of the NHL if he practices with the team for four months while staying on IR.
So what will happen? Personally, I expect him back sometime next month. I also expect Mike Gillis to have a plan in place. Recent speculation has everyone from Keith Ballard ($4.2 million), Raffi Torres ($1 million) and Mikael Samuelsson (2.5 million) being traded. Personally, I find that speculation ridiculous. Those are playoff-type players that the Canucks would loathe to lose. The more likely scenario would have Andrew Alberts ($1.05 million) and Aaron Rome ($0.75 million) being sent away, assuming they both return from injury not long from now. Notice I’m not mentioning Kevin Bieksa anymore? In case you missed it, a lot of things have changed since the summer and now we are all Bieksa.
What Salo means to the team
Not a lot of people are talking about what Sami Salo is likely to bring to the team. Everyone jokes about his injury troubles, but over the last few seasons Salo has been one of their most valuable defensemen. My worry (and his worry too apparently) is that he comes back and is a shadow of his former self. To recover from his injury and missing more than half a season is not easy to come back from. It’s even more difficult to do at age 36. Of course, if he is able to regain his form he’ll be a huge boost to an already impressive defense corps.
What about Raymond?
Nobody ever seems to mention Mason Raymond’s name in trade rumours and I find this curious. He’s got some value given his age, contract and production, but he’s also somewhat dispensable for this team. Jeff Tambellini has stepped in and pretty much matched Raymond this year. They’re a similar age (Tambellini is 26, Raymond 24) too. I don’t want to see Raymond go, but the possibility should at least be in the discussion. He should be able to fetch a decent draft pick (the Canucks will need to restock given the amount of picks they’ve traded away recently) or perhaps get a guy like Tyler Kennedy ($0.725 million) out of Pittsburgh, though the Penguins would need to do some salary cap shuffling of their own to make that work.
Whatever happens, it’s sure to be interesting. Of course, should another high priced player get injured before Salo returns and gets moved to the IR, the problem with solve itself.