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

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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.

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