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

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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.


Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: