You could use a canister filter in place of a sump on a simple saltwater set-up. Probably anything bigger than a nano tank (larger than about 25 gallons) needs a sump or at least a HOB or internal protein skimmer. Keeping chaeto in the canister won't work, because chaeto needs light. I wouldn't recommend keeping LR or LS in a canister either. However, if you ran carbon, chemi-pure elite, purigen, along with filter padding (or some combination of the aforementioned), I think that would work well. However, while this would provide adequate mechanical filtration and allow you to sustain a saltwater aquarium, a system that is based heavily on biological filtration (using LR, LS, with a sump/fuge) would be better off and save you money in the long run (the price of mechanical media adds up over time, and it needs to be replaced about every 4-6 weeks).