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Canucks sign Salo to one-year deal, also lock up Higgins

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The Canadian Press/TSN.ca
7/1/2011 6:05:03 PM
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VANCOUVER -- Staying in a city he knows, on a team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup, was worth taking a cut in pay for Sami Salo.

The veteran Vancouver Canuck defenceman agreed to a US$2-million, one-year contract extension prior to becoming a free agent Friday. The native of Turku, Finland, earned $3.5 million last year.

"I felt we have a really good chance of doing something special, like we did last year," Salo said during a telephone conference call from his cottage in Finland. "We know it's a long road to get where we were last year.

"I felt there was a really good chance to do it again."

The Canucks dipped into the free-agent market to sign forward Marco Sturm. The 32-year-old from Dingolfing, Germany, split the season between Los Angeles and Washington last year, scoring a combined five goals and 11 assists in 35 games.

The Canucks also signed forward Chris Higgins to a $3.8-million, two-year deal. The six-foot, 205-pound Higgins earned $1.6 million last season. As well, the Canucks signed forward Andrew Ebbett to a one-year, one-way, contract worth $525,000. The 28-year-old Ebbett is a four-year NHL veteran who's spent time with the Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks.

Forward Raffi Torres left Vancouver for a $3.5-million, two-year contract with the Coyotes. That's an increase from the $1 million the Canucks paid him last year.

Salo, who turns 37 in September, battled back from a career-threatening Achilles tendon tear last season. In 27 regular-season games he had three goals and four assists.

He appeared in 21 playoff games during Vancouver's run to the Stanley Cup final, scoring three goals and adding two assists.

In the past, players like Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin have all taken less money than they might have got somewhere else to stay in Vancouver.

Salo admitted he thought about testing the free-agent market, where some players signed big deals Friday. At the end of the day, he decided Vancouver was the best fit.

"I am happy for guys that got big deals, they deserve them," said Salo. "I was happy with my deal. I am in the latter part of my career. I know we have a real good team.

"Sometimes it takes different measures from different guys. Some guys take pay cuts, some guys get raises."

Canuck management had indicated they wanted Salo back. It's believed the delay in reaching a deal was Salo wanted a longer term.

Salo indicated he wants to keep playing past next season.

"I felt I had at least a few more years in the NHL," he said. "In the end, I was able to get a one-year deal with the Canucks.

"I will see how I feel after this year."

At six-foot-three and 215 pounds, Salo can play physical. He also has a booming shoot, which adds some bite to the Canuck power play.

All of Salo's goals during the playoffs came on the power play, including two in one game against the San Jose Sharks when Vancouver scored three power-play goals in 1:55.

Injuries have plagued Salo his entire career. It's estimated he's suffered 37 injuries, costing him over 250 games during his 12-year career in Vancouver and Ottawa. He was even bitten by a snake on a golf course once.

With Salo signed, the Canucks have eight defenceman. During the season-ending news conference Mike Gillis, the Canucks' general manager, talked about reducing Salo's minutes to help him stay healthy.

"My goal is to put the body in the best shape and prepare myself to play 82 games," said Salo. "What comes along, you can't control."

Salo started his career with Ottawa in 1998. He was traded to Vancouver in September 2002 for Peter Schaefer.

In 692 career NHL games for Ottawa and Vancouver, Salo has 84 goals and 280 points.

The Canucks picked up Higgins at the trade deadline from Florida. In 14 regular season games the 28-year-old native of Smithtown, N.Y., had two goals and three assists.

During the playoffs he scored four goals and eight points in 25 games.

Higgins has 105 goals and 91 assists in 411 career games with Montreal, the New York Rangers, Calgary, Florida and Vancouver.

Sami Salo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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