Radim Salda was originally picked as the last Tampa Bay Lightning selection in 2018 NHL Entry Draft at number 206. There were some doubts as to whether he would stay in the Czech Republic and spend the whole season with HK Hradec Kralove or if he would go back to the CHL, where he could be closer to Tampa. Eventually he decided to join the Rimouski Océanic from the QMJHL. This offseason he needs to make the same decision.
Salda is a 6’1”, 185 pounds left-handed defenseman. He’s mostly known for his offensive skills and good skating. He has spent already tthe last two seasons in North America, playing mostly as top-pairing defender. His biggest issue is probably decision-making. When he was drafted, scouts noted his at times high end offensive ability but also flagged that he had a tendency to make such bad decisions that they wouldn’t even consider drafting him.
His second season in North America was solid. He scored 30 points in 48 games, which is good result for defenseman. Even though he played just 48 games, mostly due to some visa issues, his numbers put him in the top 30 defenseman in the QMJHL in scoring. And if we dig a little deeper, his scoring looks even better. He was 14th in total primary points despite his limited number of games. And among players with at least 30 games played, he ranked 9th in primary points per game. Salda also played for the first time in the QMJHL playoffs where his team advanced to the semifinals but were swept by future champion, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Additionally, he was one of few players who returned for the second year in row to the World Junior Championships for the Czech Republic. He played just three games, didn’t scored any points, and his team lost in quarterfinals to United States.
All in all, 2018-2019 was a successful season for Salda. A player in his second overage season should perform well in junior hockey. And Salda did. In terms of scoring, he was one of the best blue liners in the league. That doesn’t guarantee anything going forward but it does suggest he has a professional future and that we should expect to see him in Syracuse at some point. And if things break right, he might even have a future in the NHL as a depth puck moving defender.
As a seventh round pick, he’s probably not very known among Lightning fans. This is likely the reason why didn’t show up on our consolidated readers ranking. But the writers were a little bit higher on him. Justin put him in 16th place, which was his highest position among our staff. I assume Justin would love to see Salda next season on the Syracuse Crunch roster. At the same time, Hardev doesn’t have as much faith in him as others and had him in 21st place.
It’s not clear yet where Salda will play next season. At the moment, he’s spending the offseason with HK Hradec Kralove in Czech Republic and has already participated in some pre-season tournament against KHL teams. He still can go back to the QMJHL as an overager, but given the fact he’s a citizen of a European country, his team would lose room for another overage player.
Per his own words, there are just two options for next season: either stay in the Czech Extraliga with HK Hradec Kralove or join the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Salda doesn’t want to play another season in junior league and is planning to try himself in professional hockey. According to his latest interview, Salda feels very confident about his conditioning, noting that he gained almost eight kilograms since last year, but remained the same percentage of body fat.
The current situation in the Syracuse Crunch would allow him to play in the third pair or as the seventh defenseman. The Lightning have already signed Luke Schenn, Luke Witkowski, and re-signed Cameron Gaunce; not to mention Dominik Masin and Cal Foote who will very likely spend next season with the Crunch. Probably the smartest decision for Salda would be to stay in the Czech Republic, where he will definitely earn more ice time and maybe even get a chance to play for the National Team.