Not known as a scoring defenseman, Ruslan Salei is known as a player who plays a physical game. After playing for several seasons in Belarus, Salei signed with the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder for the 1995-96 season.
With only one season in North America under his belt, Salei was the Anaheim Mighty Ducks first pick, ninth overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, a draft which saw 13 of the 26 players in the first round selected as defencemen.
Salei would play 30 games with the Ducks in the 1996-97 season, scoring only a single point. He also spent time in both the AHL with the Baltimore Bandits and back with his old IHL team in Las Vegas. The next season saw him become a blueline mainstay as he appeared in 66 games for the Ducks.
In 2002-03 Salei was a key player in the Ducks run to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, only to lose a hard-fought seven game series to the New Jersey Devils.
Following his stint with Anaheim, Salei signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2006. In his first season with Florida, Salei set a new NHL career high in goals (6) assists (26) and points (32) and was only one of six Panthers to appear in all 82 games. The following season the physical defenseman picked up where he left off, recording 23 points in 65 games prior to being dealt at the NHL trading deadline. The trade sent Sealei, an 11-year veteran, to the Colorado Avalanche for Karlis Skrastins.
On the international stage, Salei has represented his homeland at the World Championships on several occasions and the Winter Olympics (1998, 2002 and 2010).
On August 9, 2010, Salei signed a one-year deal with the rival Detroit Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent.