Veteran defensemen Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold have likely played their final NHL game, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.
A concussion limited Ballard to just 14 games last season. The 32-year-old was the recipient of a Matt Martin hit on Dec. 9, which sent him to hospital. Ballard, who recorded one assist and a minus-3 rating while averaging 12:03 in ice time, is still not 100 percent nearly nine months later.
“I’m just trying to get healthy,” Ballard said. “If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”
Ballard’s two-year, $3 million contract expired in July and he remains an unrestricted free agent. The Minnesota native appeared in 604 career NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Wild.
Leopold, a fellow unrestricted free agent, doesn’t have his agent making calls to teams.
Leopold, who was dealt by the Blue Jackets to the Wild in March at the request of his daughter, appeared in 18 games with Minnesota last season registering one assist and a plus-1 rating while averaging 13:19 a night in ice time.
Russo reports that Leopold and his wife are in the process of opening an events and wedding center on the Bluffs of the Mississippi.
Neither player has formally announced their retirement.
Related: It’s Minnesota Wild day at PHT
Just one day after re-upping with one of their young defensemen, the Blue Jackets have retained another.
Justin Falk, acquired at the deadline in exchange for Jordan Leopold, has been signed to a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.
“Justin is a good, young defenseman who was a solid addition to our hockey club late last season,” Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “We are pleased that he will continue to be a part of our group on the blue line next season.”
Falk, 26, scored two points in 18 games last year while averaging 15:13 TOI per night. News of his signing comes just one day after Columbus also re-upped with another d-man — 25-year-old Cody Goloubef — on a two-year, $1.5 million extension.
The Falk deal pretty much locks in the Blue Jackets’ defense for next year, barring a trade of some sort. The club now has eight NHL defensemen under contract: Falk, Goloubef, Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin, David Savard, Dalton Prout and Kevin Connauton.
The Minnesota Wild are making a lineup change in the hopes of living to play another day.
Veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold, who’s appeared in all nine playoff games thus far, will be dropped from the lineup in Game 4 against Chicago in favor of Nate Prosser, who’ll make his postseason debut.
Prosser appeared in 63 games during the regular season and finished with two goals and seven points. According to head coach Mike Yeo, Prosser will help the club on the penalty kill; it’s also worth noting Leopold was barely used in the Game 3 loss to the ‘Hawks, getting just 8:36 of ice time.
As for other lineup notes:
— Prosser looks like he’ll be on a pairing with Mathew Dumba.
— Chris Stewart briefly participated in this morning’s skate, but looks like he’s still struggling with his upper-body injury and won’t suit up tonight.
— Projected lines, per the Star-Tribune: