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Sami Salo’s soul search: is retirement a possibility?

Jan 4, 2011, 2:51 PM EDT

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When discussing the NHL’s most injury prone players, names that immediately come to mind include Rick DiPietro and Marian Gaborik. Don’t forget about hard-shooting Finnish defenseman Sami Salo, though.

The Vancouver Canucks blueliner made perplexing headlines over the summer by rupturing his Achillies tendon under curious circumstances and now it sounds like he’s wondering if he’ll ever get back to NHL speed.

Ian MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun reports that although Salo seems like he’s progressing relatively well, the useful but fragile defenseman is pondering a possible retirement. People have been generating rumors regarding how the team will clear space to make room for his $3.5 million salary cap hit, yet it sounds like there’s a chance the pending free agent might not cause such a problem.

Yes, things are proceeding well. Yes, he was back on the ice sooner than expected. Barring setbacks, Salo probably will play again, maybe in a month. But there is a big difference between just skating well and skating well enough to play at the top of the National Hockey League.

The Finn said he would retire before risking permanent damage by playing without complete health and — equally importantly — the belief that he can play against the best forwards in the world.

“I’ve had so much more on my mind that worrying about the roster,” Salo said before travelling to San Jose from Denver, where the Canucks beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Sunday. “The worry I’ve had — and it’s still there — is: Can I still play? Am I going to be able to play at the top level? That question still isn’t gone completely, so I have a lot of other things on my mind than worrying about [the roster].”

Salo said he and the Canucks — their coaching and medical staffs — agree he won’t play unless there is absolute certainty that he is fit and capable.

Yes, something tells me that the Canucks aren’t going to try to rush him back into the lineup.

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