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

4 Comments

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.