In early July, rumors surfaced that Sami Salo had played his final game in the NHL. Now, the 40-year-old defenseman has confirmed those rumors, adding that his nagging wrist injury is what has cost him a final season.
Salo last played in the 2013-14 season with Tampa Bay, but missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He again missed time during the Lightning’s four-game defeat at the hands of the Canadiens that season, missing the final two games of Montreal’s series sweep.
Salo confirmed to Ilta-Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, that he could no longer play in the NHL. “Hand is what it is,” Salo said. “(I am) no longer able to play. Not hockey, not tennis. At least not as a professional.”
The veteran defenseman had wrist surgery previously, but the hope was it was healed enough to not require further surgery. Salo told Ilta-Sanomat that’s not the case, however, and that he will have to go under the knife once again.
Throughout his career, Salo was often injured, never once playing a full season. Even in the lockout shortened campaign — a 48-game season in 2012-13 — Salo missed two games. Over his 15-year career, Salo played 878 games and scored 339 points. It’s a shame he won’t be back for at least one more season, however, as he’s sitting on the cusp of 100 career goals — he will retire with 99.
Salo was one of the best late-round picks of the 1996 draft, and waited until the ninth round, 239th overall pick to hear his name called by the Ottawa Senators. The third-last pick in the draft, Salo has played more games than all but 13 players drafted in 1996 and retires as the 12th highest scoring player taken in the draft. He’s even ahead of 1996 first-overall selection Chris Phillips, who was also selected by the Senators.
With a booming shot from the point, Salo was an incredible weapon on the power play, having four seasons in which he scored more than six goals with the extra man. His best year came when he blasted home nine power play goals in 2005-06 with the Vancouver Canucks. Salo’s years with the Canucks were some of the best of his career. While in Vancouver, Salo posted career highs of 14 goals and 37 points, all the while being a 20-plus minute defenseman on a nightly basis.