FREE AGENT PREVIEW – RUSLAN SALEI

Getting back to looking at some of the upcoming free agents this summer, I bring up Ruslan Salei not because I want him on the Kings so much as because when I put on my ‘Dean’ hat, Salei’s name jumps out at me.

Why in the wide wide world of sports would I think Salei may be on Lombardi’s radar? I mean, he’s old. Like, going to be 36 in November old. He also just spent the majority of his season on the IR. Worst of all, he used to be a Duck. Not just any Duck, a Mighty Duck.

Ick.

However, Salei is about as steady as steady goes. The potential signing of Salei is of course, conditional on the Kings moving on from Sean O’Donnell, or ‘OD’ simply moving on from his playing career. Salei, who has always managed to put up slightly more points than other players in his defensive-defenseman mold, made $3.275 million last year with the Colorado Avalanche. He has 842 regular season games under his belt and another 51 games played in the post season. Now Ruslan may not have his name on the Cup as O’Donnell does, but one important difference is that Salei can still handle middle-pairing minutes, which OD proved this last year that he can no longer do the high defensive standards he set for himself throughout his career. Salei average between 19 and 20 minutes of TOI per game this last year.

Are there better dmen on the market? Absolutely. However while I believe Dean will be adding a defenseman from outside the organization this summer (either by UFA or trade), I do not believe he will be looking to fill the hole on defense for no more than a year or two. This is where Salei becomes all the more attractive. He can replace OD, help teach Jack Johnson, and move on when another one of the Kings’ defensive prospects is ready to make the big jump to the NHL. Salei is also a leader, having recently Captained his Belarussian Olympic team to 4 straight losses (don’t blame him for his countries shortcomings).

Price is always a question. Will Salei make over $3 million again? I highly doubt it. At 35, Salei is eligible (unless my memory has failed me again) to receive a one-year contract with performance bonuses. What is the right price? $2-2.5 million sounds about right. Considering he only played in 14 games this last year, I can’t imagine the demand being abnormally high for Ruslan.

The bigger question is whether the dman Dean adds is a puck mover or a shut-down defenseman. I am of the belief that a prospect will fill the gaping hole left by Jones (not that Jones ever filled that hole while he was here), and that OD will be the one who needs replacing.

Of course if O’Donnell signs on for another year with the crown, this is all moot.

But hey, its something for you to read, something for you to consider. So think about it. Or don’t. I’ll pick someone more interesting for the next UFA preview, I promise.



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