After addressing two needs earlier in the day on Sunday to kick off the official first day of the 2012 NHL Free Agency period, including signing Benoit Pouliot at forward and Artem Sergeev on defense in a move that added to the club’s organizational depth, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman also added a veteran presence to the blue line as well.
Yzerman went out and signed seasoned defenseman Sami Salo, a veteran of 761 career NHL games who has registered 93 goals and 305 points in that span.
“Sami will combine with Eric Brewer to give our defense some nice veteran leadership for our younger players,” Yzerman said. “We were able to add him at a contract that fits in nicely for us. We are pleased he chose to join the Lightning.”
Salo, 37, brings a set of intangibles that when combined with his experience, could prove to be a valuable asset to the Lightning blue line next season.
Salo is expected to bring a veteran presence to Lightning's young defensive core
With the future of defenseman Mattias Ohlund still unknown, Salo provides the same veteran presence on the ice, and capability to anchor the blue line, that was simply lacking all of last season’s in Ohlund’s absence as a result of an injury that caused him to miss all 82 of the team’s regular-season games in 2011-12.
And, in addition to boasting a right-handed shot that could prove useful on the power play, it would not be a stretch to think Salo could serve as a model to mentor the Bolts’ young defensive core that comprises Keith Aulie, Victor Hedman, Brian Lee and Brendan Mikkelson, each of whom are no older than 25.
There is also this: Salo has shown that despite his age, he still possesses the durability required to log decent minutes, as he ranked fourth on the Vancouver Canucks last season averaging 20:26 in ice time per game. Add in his 77 blocked shots, also good for fourth on the Canucks last season, and it appears Salo will emerge as a solid presence in front of the Bolts’ netminders for each of the next two seasons should he stay healthy.
“He is a high character guy that can play in all situations for us,” Yzerman added.