Jan 112011
 

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on Mike Gillis’ and the Canucks’ options when Sami Salo returns from injury. The assumption then was that Salo would eventually rejoin the Canucks and that they would need to somehow, someway clear salary cap room for him.

But maybe we jumped the gun a little bit.

Since that post, Salo himself has come out and cooled some of the trade talk.

“I’ve had so much more on my mind that worrying about the roster,” Salo said before travelling to San Jose from Denver, where the Canucks beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Sunday. “The worry I’ve had — and it’s still there — is: Can I still play? Am I going to be able to play at the top level? That question still isn’t gone completely, so I have a lot of other things on my mind than worrying about [the roster].”

Salo said he and the Canucks — their coaching and medical staffs — agree he won’t play unless there is absolute certainty that he is fit and capable.

“We’ve had discussions,” Salo said. “Both sides have to be really honest with each other. I’ve said all along I’m not going to risk the rest of my career, my life, with having a disability. I have to be really careful.

“The business is the business. But, like I said, I have to be at the level where I feel I need to be. For sure, they’re going to ask me where I’m at, and there’s no point in moving somebody [in a trade] if I’m not 100 per cent. There’s no point coming back and then finding out you’re not good enough to play. I’ve got to make sure I’m really at the top level when I come back.”

Then yesterday, I saw that Mike Gillis essentially said the same thing.

Five months after rupturing his Achilles tendon, Sami Salo is back practicing with the team, but Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis told the Sun yesterday it’s not a question of when he’ll return — it’s still a matter of if he can.

“I think people are really jumping the gun,” said Gillis, somewhat agitated over repeated questions about how he’ll shoehorn Salo’s $3.5-million cap hit into his lineup.

“For some reason, people want to discount the type of injury he had. He suffered a 95% rupture of his Achilles tendon. There are people who never walk after something like that. We don’t know if he’s going to play. He’s three practices in and it’s going OK, but it’s still a long ways off.”

So what now?

Let’s assume instead that Salo doesn’t come back during the regular season and look at the Canucks’ salary cap situation using that assumption.

The Canucks don’t have cap space – nor are they banking any – but they do have Salo’s LTIR exemption. On a daily basis, they can spend $318,871 plus Salo’s $18,817 LTIR exemption – or $337,688. (That’s $62,809,968 in annual salary.)

After waiving Ryan Parent and getting a cap exemption for Rick Rypien, the Canucks are currently only spending $328,741 in daily salary on a 22-man roster. They have a roster spot open and $8,947 in daily salary (or $1,664,142 in annual salary) to spend. If the Canucks send Aaron Volpatti back to the Moose, they have $12,240 in daily salary (or $2,276,640 in annual salary) to spend. If they waive Aaron Rome, they have $12,979 in daily salary (or $2,414,094 in annual salary) to spend.

I guess my point is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing if Salo doesn’t come back. With his exemption, the Canucks can still be buyers and add even more depth to their lineup. Hypothetically speaking, they have enough to ice a third line of Alex Tanguay with Manny Malhotra and Mikael Samuelsson. Or a fourth line of Rob Niedermayer between Tanner Glass and Jannik Hansen. Or add Andy Greene or Steve Montador as a no. 6 or 7 defenseman.

Coaches Alain Vigneault and Rick Bowness both refer to Salo as the Canucks’ best defenseman. That said, the Canucks haven’t lost a beat in his absence.

Worst case scenario, the Canucks can use his cap exemption to improve what is already – well, at least it is currently – the best team in the league even better. Best case scenario, they can make full use of his cap exemption… and then Salo comes back for the playoffs.

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