Poll, analysis: Which team 'won' the Keith Ballard trade?


ballardfalls.jpgOne of the few significant deals (even though there were, by my estimates, a million minor ones) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft saw the Florida Panthers trade Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich to the Vancouver Canucks for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and the 25th pick. (Florida ended up choosing forward Quinton Howden with that pick.)

The first thought that came into my head was, “Wow, the Canucks added another semi-expensive, good-but-not-great defenseman?” Just take a look at the contract situation for their clogged blueline, via CapGeek.com. (click to enlarge)

crowdedcanucksblueline.JPGVancouver is committing $17.8 million of their salary cap to Ballard, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff. I admit that’s not necessarily an astronomical number (not even three Brian Campbells), but their d-core seems like an odd collection of solid second pairing blueliners. Besides, this is the Canucks; at least two of them will miss a chunk of the season with some Wile E. Coyote-type injuries, right?

I can’t totally lambaste their defense as there is some talent there, I just wonder if they can stay healthy or consistent. It might also be a little early to say Ehrhoff is for real. He produced a surprisingly effective 2009-10 season, but let’s wait one more year before we assume he’s not the feast-or-famine guy we saw in San Jose. Then again, GM Mike Gillis claims that he isn’t done re-making Vancouver’s defense, so perhaps I’m just being hasty in stating that their group is a strange mishmash.

Moving Steve Bernier makes Ballard’s $4.2 million cap hit easier to digest. As Jason Botchford of Orland Kurtenblog point out, the big forward received plenty of opportunities to excel – he played with Joe “millionaire maker” Thornton after all – but never took advantage of those opportunities. While Canucks fans seemed ready to say goodbye to Bernier, the jury’s still out on flashy scorer Michael Grabner. That being said, players like Grabner could go either way; the Canucks could end up regretting this move but he’s just as likely to fade into oblivion.

From the Florida perspective, this trade – and Tallon’s moves in general – brings good news and bad news. In the grand scheme of things, they added a bountiful harvest of prospects which may provide a much-needed boost to a barren farm system. In the short term, though, it feels like they exchanged Keith Ballard, Nathan Horton and various debris for Steve Bernier, Dennis Wideman and various debris (note: picks aren’t debris, but Grabner’s debris status is subject to debate). Bernier having a big impact for the Panthers is doubtful, so it will come down to Quinton Howden and Grabner making a difference.

At first I thought this was a slam dunk for Florida and a head-slapper for Vancouver, but after some bigger picture analysis, it’s like most trades that do not involve superstar players or transparent salary dumps. Each team took a loss, but both clubs can also point to some sincere positives.

What do you think? Vote to tell us if you see a clear winner in this deal.

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach

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As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.