The Vancouver Canucks' plans for their revived defence corps took a step backward Friday, after Sami Salo suffered an Achilles ligament tear during a training accident in Finland, the most recent in a long-time of injuries for the brittle hard-luck 35-year-old defenceman.
Salo reportedly suffered the injury training in Finland, with one report suggesting he was playing floor hockey when the tear occurred. The Canucks issued a statement to confirm that the injury was a torn Achilles and that Salo would be "out indefinitely pending further evaluation."
The Canucks have been busily rebuilding their blue line in the off-season, acquiring two top-four defenceman in Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis, Ballard via the trade route from Florida at the entry draft, Hamhuis as an unrestricted free agent. Their presence on the roster gave the Canucks a comparative surplus of blue liners, given that Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff are also capable of playing big minutes and led to speculation that Kevin Bieksa was on the way out, with the Anaheim Ducks said to be interested.
It is unclear if Salo's uncertain future may cause the Canucks to rethink their plans going forward - or if they had already anticipated that Salo might only play in a smaller role next year, given his age and bad luck with injuries.
Salo is known as one of the NHL's hardest-shooting defencemen and last year, scorred nine goals and added 19 assists in 68 games. Salo has only played 70 or more games twice in an NHL career that began with the 1998-99 Ottawa Senators. He has been with the Canucks since September, 2002, when he was acquired in a trade for Peter Schaefer.
A rough estimate put Salo's injury count at 35 and has cost him over 200 games during his 11-year NHL career, from knee, to shoulder to ankle injuries. He's also broken his ribs and his nose' once tore a muscle in his derriere and has missed games with the flu.
Most recently, he suffered what appeared to be a testicle injury during last year's playoffs, when he was hit in the groin area by a shot from Duncan Keith in the fifth game of the Western Conference semi-finals. The injury turned out not to be as serious as it originally looked and he came back to play the next game.
Salo is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.5-million (U.S.). Currently, Vancouver is about $1.2-million over the NHL's $59.4-million salary cap. A long-term stay on the injury list, as an Achilles tendon injury implies, would provide the team with salary-cap relief during his convalescence.
With a file from Canadian Press