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Bridgeport Islanders

Swedish Report: Salo Leaving Islanders



Robin Salo

Robin Salo, the New York Islanders’ 2018 second-round draft pick, has left the organization to sign with the Malmö Redhawks in the Swedish Hockey League.

The report comes via Johan Svensson of Expressen. Salo is set to become a group-6 UFA on July 1, but he appears to be headed back to Europe to play in Sweden.

So, what led to this? Salo once had a lot of promise here on the Island, but after crashing out, let’s revisit what went wrong for Salo on Long Island.

Salo’s Arrival

Salo joined the Islanders organization from Europe after the 2020-21 season ended and had a strong training camp before reporting to Bridgeport. A few weeks later, on November 20, 2021, he made his NHL debut, which was also the inaugural game at UBS Arena.

Salo was brought up after six different Islanders players landed in the COVID protocol that sabotaged that opening weekend at UBS Arena. Salo provided a new look for the Islanders’ defense, as the then 23-year-old provided speed to a blue line that at the time regularly saw 44-year-old Zdeno Chara and 38-year-old Andy Greene take on heavy minutes.

Simultaneously, Sebastian Aho was also fighting for a roster spot after two AHL All-Star seasons while having a couple of cups of coffee with the team. Aho, who is two and a half years older, was seen as an okay player, but Salo was the better of the two, with a higher ceiling.

Inflection Point

Then, a critical moment in Salo’s career occurred, which became the inflection point of his Islanders’ tenure.
On March 5, 2022, Zdeno Chara was placed on IR. A roster spot was open, and Salo seemed to be the obvious choice. After all, it had only been four weeks since he was sent back down after seemingly becoming the Islanders’ top defensive prospect.

Instead, Parker Wotherspoon was recalled. At the time, Wotherspoon did not seem to have a big future with the Islanders or a very high ceiling. Then, Barry Trotz, the Islanders head coach at the time, was asked point-blank why Salo wasn’t recalled.

Trotz openly praised Wotherspoon’s consistent play in Bridgeport before admonishing Salo with a pretty harsh critique.

“He hasn’t played as well as he’s needed to play. (Salo) should be an impact and the best defenseman down (there). He hasn’t been.” said Trotz. Ouch. Salo finished the year in Bridgeport before playing games 80 and 81 in what had become a lost season for the Islanders.

Salo scored 20 points in 40 AHL games and five in 21 NHL games. Those 21 games with the Islanders in 2022-23 gave fans much hope, and he seemed poised to take another step forward. He would have a chance to claim the roster spots left vacant by Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara’s retirements. The latter was the left-shot defenseman slot that Salo would compete for.

More Hope for the Next Season?

Over the summer, the Islanders made a splashy move at the draft and acquired Alexander Romanov for the 13th overall pick. Filling the top-4 hole in the lineup left after guys like Nick Leddy, Devon Toews, and Zdeno Chara left the team.

But the third-pair left-shot defenseman roster spot was open. The only other outsider the Islanders brought in was Dennis Chowloski, who seemed earmarked to go to Bridgeport. In reality, the competition was Salo vs. Aho. The seventh defenseman spot was also open, with Parker Wotherspoon, no longer eligible for waivers, competing as well.

Salo was the favorite, and indeed, he won the job. In game two of the season, he scored a pair of goals. Then, Salo played two shaky games and was scratched in favor of Aho on October 22. Aho played well, and locked up the roster spot.

Salo didn’t play again until December 9, when he played for two weeks before being sent to Bridgeport. Salo only re-entered the lineup due to an injury to Adam Pelech. After those two weeks, he never played an NHL game again.

Flash Forward to the End

Samuel Bolduc became the top prospect within the organization. He had been coming off of an injury-riddled season but quickly became Bridgeport’s top guy. Salo was left behind him, and Aho.

Even Parker Wotherspoon became the team’s permanent seventh defenseman.

Just as quickly as Salo’s rise to notoriety began, his collapse seemed even quicker. Maybe Trotz’s quote may have shaken his confidence more than anyone realized. Perhaps it was the short leash early in October that Lambert gave him. Or maybe watching Aho, Wotherspoon, and even Bolduc move past him on the depth chart left a mark. This entire season, he was a complete afterthought.

With a touch of irony, Aho’s Islanders career is likely ending, as he’s set to become a UFA on July 1. He was passed on the depth chart by waiver pickup Mike Reilly, while Samuel Bolduc is ready for a bigger role.

The two Nordic defensemen, who battled for a roster position for almost a calendar year in 2022, will leave together. It’s a nice bow on a frustrating chapter for the Islanders, and the players alike.

Salo’s career stagnated, and now he is leaving for Europe. His departure leaves fans wondering, “What if?” about the former draft pick.

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I’d like to wish Robin well. He had a very small opportunity to break into the lineup, and was more than likely not in the Isles future plans. I hope he has a great career in Sweden. Thanks for the effort.

Doug M

44 year old Chara and 38 year old Greene good grief