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.


Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

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Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

(Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

Here’s the OT goal.

If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

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Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

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The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

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So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Kucherov’s goal run ends, but he helped Sergachev make history, Bolts win

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Gosh, that Nikita Kucherov is such a slacker.

The underrated, rising star saw his historic, season-opening seven-game goal streak end with eight in seven games. This leaves him just one game short of tying Wayne Gretzky.

It’s fitting, though, that Kucherov made a little history even as his historic run ended. He earned two primary assists on the first two goals of Mikhail Sergachev‘s NHL career, factoring into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s surprisingly low-scoring 2-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

(C’mon, you pictured some fireworks there too, didn’t you?)

Here’s the first-ever goal for Sergachev, who matched trade mate Jonathan Drouin‘s two goals with tonight’s outburst.

And here’s the second:

Yeah, you can’t give Sergachev that kind of space and time; then again, maybe the Blue Jackets were a little preoccupied with stopping Kucherov and his red-hot partner-in-crime, Steven Stamkos?

The real star of tonight’s game/reason why it was so low-scoring was probably Andrei Vasilevskiy. Another key Russian for the Lightning, Vasilevskiy stopped all 43 shots for an impressive shutout. This marks his first of the season and only the fifth of what’s been a promising young career.

After falling just short against the New Jersey Devils via a shootout, the Bolts improve to 6-1-1 while winning another early temperature check against Columbus, who are still off to a strong start at 5-2-0.

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