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.
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.
Leopold out, Prosser in as Wild look to avoid Chicago sweep
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: “I’m really excited for tonight and ready to bring my game.” #mnwild
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.
The Minnesota Wild suffered one of the worst playoff losses in franchise history on Wednesday night — a 6-1 shellacking at home against St. Louis — and the day after, head coach Mike Yeo did a little posturing.
“There’s still pressure on them,” Yeo said Thursday, per the Pioneer Press. “They think that they’re much better than us, and it’s our job to prove we’re up at that level.”
As for last night?
“It’s not like we played our best hockey and came up short,” he explained.
That message stayed consistent with comments made in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 (basically, “we stunk, let’s move on.”) Zach Parise said his team was “brutal” and Yeo followed suit today, saying Minnesota has plenty more to give — which, apparently, will include a new lineup look for Game 5.
Yeo hints there is a “good chance” at lineup changes. #mnwild
There’s no shortage of candidates to come out after Game 4. Sean Bergenheim played a team-low 10:11 and finished minus-2 on the night, and has been parked in the press box already this postseason. Veteran d-man Jordan Leopold had the fewest minutes among all blueliners and finished minus-3, and with the wealth of options Yeo has at his disposal — Matt Cooke, Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser all sat last game — there are plenty of new looks he could throw at St. Louis.
The Arizona Coyotes wore throw back jerseys in Thursday night’s shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks. Additionally, goaltender Mike Smith wore a mask designed specifically for the night. Smith had rock icon Alice Cooper painted on its back plate. (NHL.com)
Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Friday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Friday at 7:00pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith helped toddler Cammy, who was born unable to walk or speak, reach her dream. Her goal was to score a goal with the help of her favorite player, Keith. The 31-year-old recently made Cammy’s dream come true. Have a look:
One of the highlights of Monday’s trade deadline was the Minnesota Wild’s acquisition of defenseman Jordan Leopold. Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn Leopold, wrote a letter to the Wild asking them bring her dad home to Minnesota. Jordyn discussed her letter with the Wild’s website recently:
The Hockey News ranks the Top 10 falling prospects. These players were ranked among the top 75 prospects in the game last season, but have since dropped off. (THN)
Peterborough Petes’ rookie Jonathan Ang scored a highlight-reel goal Thursday night during an Ontario Hockey League game against Max Domi and the London Knights. Have a look: