Sami Salo’s vague injury update: he expects to return ‘sometime in 2011’

Let’s face it, there are probably a lot of people out there who are rooting for the Vancouver Canucks – from fans to players and front office members – who aren’t exactly rooting for the return of hobbled defenseman Sami Salo.

That’s because the hard-shooting, often-injured defenseman will bring a $3.5 million cap hit with him. That’s a problematic addition considering the fact that the league-leading Canucks have zero breathing room even without his hefty salary.

Last time we checked, Salo was actually generating some mild retirement talk, although that focused mainly on “I don’t want to play if I’m not at 100 percent” thoughts. Well, it sounds like retirement is no longer on his mind, yet his window of return is still painfully unclear.

In fact, his target is about as vague as it gets: he told Brad Ziemer of Puck World that he only knows he’ll return in the year 2011, though he noted that he’s feeling better.

It was hard to tell whether Salo was being coy or serious when he told reporters following today’s morning skate at Madison Square Garden that “sometime in 2011” was as specific as he could be about his return.

“It is obviously a little bit better,” Salo said. “We are kind of on that schedule where we said after Christmas that I would be returning sometime in 2011.

“I think that is more realistic, just the year. I can’t really say if it’s tomorrow, a month from now. I have to take in a lot of different things before I can pinpoint a day when I will be ready.”

The article points out that rugged forward Raffi Torres has been the latest target of salary dump rumors, but the problem is that he makes $2.5 million less per season (his cap hit is $1 million) than Salo. Even with an abbreviated season, my guess is that Vancouver would have to make more than one move if that were the case.

Kevin Bieksa ($3.75 million cap hit) has been the go-to guy for rumors because of his similar cap number, but his value has been clear to the Canucks. Getting rid of him for Salo would be a painful transaction to make.

So the questions keep swirling while one must wonder if the Canucks even want Salo back. My guess is that if Salo continues to struggle with a comeback, the team might demand an answer once the trade deadline approaches. We’ll keep you updated.

Coyotes GM ‘called right away’ on Hamonic

Don Maloney
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You can add Arizona to the list of teams that tried to get in on the Travis Hamonic sweepstakes.

“[He’s] a talented player,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We certainly called right away, but we do not have a good fit for them right now.

“That’s the bottom line. They’re looking for a ready-made complement player.”

Hamonic, who requested a trade out of New York, is garnering plenty of interest across the league. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported five clubs — Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota — were in the mix, with Sportsnet floating potential trade chips like the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, and the Flames’ T.J. Brodie.

It’s unsurprising the Coyotes didn’t have a fit for Isles GM Garth Snow.

It’s hard to imagine — nearly impossible, really — to think Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be on the move, and the rest of the Arizona defense is comprised of unheralded youngsters (Michael Stone, Connor Murphy) or grizzled vets (Nicklas Grossmann, Zbynek Michalek).

But Maloney’s remarks are still noteworthy, because he more we hear about the Hamonic situation, the clearer the asking price gets.

Related: Hamonic willing to finish season with Isles

Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”