First it was Justin Schultz picking Edmonton, which was a blow.
Then the Canucks lost out on Tanner Glass, who chose the Pittsburgh Penguins. And of course, we can’t forget Aaron Rome who went to Dallas. We know Alain Vigneault won’t.
But the real loss was felt Sunday afternoon when core defenceman Sami Salo moved on from the Vancouver Canucks, who refused to show him the love a year after he agreed to play for the cut-rate salary of $2 million. They quickly replaced him with younger, bigger Florida defenceman Jason Garrison.
It’s hard to blame Salo. The Canucks were hoping to bring him back on a one-year deal while the Tampa Bay Lightning were willing to give him the Mattias Ohlund treatment. Ohlund got a mega deal from the Lightning in 2009. Salo got a two-year, $7.5-million deal of his own to go to the Lightning.
The Canucks weren’t willing to commit to Salo, whose play deteriorated in the second half of the season. The Canucks tried to rest him down the stretch but into the playoffs he just wasn’t the same player he was a couple of years ago.
Questions mounted about how much longer Salo could maintain his play as a consistent top four blueliner. He started the playoffs on the Canucks third pairing with Rome.
“Sami is an excellent hockey player but he is a better person,” GM Mike Gillis said. “We’re going to miss him a lot. But where we are situated today and what we’re trying to do, the most on term we could go is one year.
“I think Sami has made a wonderful deal for himself and his family moving forward. I wish him the best of luck. I hope he stays healthy and does well.”
Tampa GM Steve Yzerman didn’t seem to share the same concerns of giving Salo the term he was seeking. Yzerman said he was willing to lock up Salo for two reasons — he is a right-side guy who can produce on the power play.
“That was very important to us, especially in power-play situations,” Yzerman told reporters. “He is a high-character guy that can play in all situations for us, and we expect that he can comfortably play in the 20-minute range as he did this season in Vancouver.”
In Salo, the Canucks passed on one of their most likable and quirky players, but opened up a spot for the Garrison.
Salo will be 38 years old on Sept. 2 and, of course, he’s had a long history of injuries, more than 40 in his career. The Canucks didn’t want to overpay, or over-commit, and found themselves in a situation that wasn’t dissimilar to the one they were in with Willie Mitchell two years ago.
The Canucks refused to offer Mitchell a second year, even though he wanted to stay, and he went to the L.A. Kings, where he was tremendous in helping to lead them to a Stanley Cup win.
Losing Salo traces back to last season.
After missing most of the year with a torn Achilles tendon, Salo had agreed, conceptually, right after the season to stay in Vancouver. He was open about his willingness to take a substantial salary trim. What he did want with that was the security of a two-year contract. He didn’t sign until July 1, holding out for that extra year, before finally agreeing to the Canucks one-year $2-million contract.
Salo may have lost a step, or three, but in his nine-year career with the Canucks they were always better with him the lineup than without. Usually, significantly so. He could play with just about anyone and was a fixture on the power play. And when things started to go south in the postseason against the L.A. Kings, Salo was back up on the top pairing, playing with Alex Edler.
As Yzerman pointed out, he finished the season playing more than 20 minutes a game.
The Finnish D-man with the booming shot had some big moments over the course of his Vancouver career, none greater than his two-goal, three-point game against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference final.
But he will be most remembered for his injuries and his twisted humour he showcased when lying about them.
There was the time in the 2007 playoffs when he said he had the flu, adding this nugget:
“Maybe if the trainers give me some Pepto-Bismol I’ll feel a little better. We did some blood work and I took an IV; I’m starting to feel a little better.”
Not long after, it was revealed he had a strained oblique muscle.
Then there was the the playoffs when he was injured while taking a slap shot. Was it an ankle, knee, or groin?
“That’s close. Or maybe it’s just a burning sensation when you pee,” he said. “You never know.”
That’s just it with Salo, you never do know. Turns out he had a torn gluteus medius muscle. That’s right, a bum strain.
In 2010, he took a Duncan Keith shot off his testicle. He was taken to a Chicago area hospital on a stretcher but came back to play the next game.