It appears Minnesota is actively in the process of addressing their defense going into next season. According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Wild are very interested in hometown kid and former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard.
Ballard, a Clark Cup champion with the Omaha Lancers (USHL) and two time NCAA national champion with the Minnesota Gophers, was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. However, he would be traded to the Colorado Avalanche, then the Phoenix Coyotes, before ever making his NHL debut.
In five years with the Coyotes and Florida Panthers, Ballard notched 33 goals and 113 assists for 146 points in 397 games. However, he would score just three goals and 13 assist for 16 points in parts of the next three seasons for the Canucks. Hence the use of Vancouver’s amnesty buyout on the struggling defenseman.
“I did need a change, so to me, the buyout is a good thing,” said the Baudette, Minnesota native. “In my meetings at the end of the year with management in Vancouver, we all agreed that however it worked out, I needed a change. It’s a funny feeling. In a lot of ways I’m very excited, but it’s disappointing that it got to this. I’m so excited for the opportunity and what’s going to come this next season.”
Minnesota is reportedly very interested in acquiring his services and has been in touch with his agent as early as this morning. While his numbers with Vancouver should certainly raise some red flags, he is only 30, a proven winner at nearly every level of play, a very talented and physical defenseman that isn’t afraid to go down and block a shot, skates nearly effortlessly and provides a good left shot from the right side that would mesh perfectly with Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on the second pairing. He also plays with an intensity and competitive edge that Minnesota could certainly use on the back end past the top pairing of NHL All-Star Ryan Suter and NHL All-Rookie Jonas Brodin.