Keith Ballard

Report: Ballard, Leopold leaning towards retirement


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

Wild GM on Dubnyk talks: ‘The dialogue has been good’


Both the Minnesota Wild and Devan Dubnyk’s reps admit the obvious: contract talks won’t be easy. On the bright side, it sounds like each side hopes to get something done.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Dubnyk’s agent Mike Liut spoke to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun about the beginning of the give-and-take.

“That’s the goal on both sides, we’ve started the process,” Fletcher said. “I’m certainly hopeful, but it takes a little bit of time to get everything in place, there’s a lot of moving pieces. But the dialogue has been good, we’ll see what transpires.”

As PHT pointed out before, this could be a fascinating situation, especially if Dubnyk indeed costs “well north of $3 million.”

It seems pretty obvious that Dubnyk would like to stay in Minnesota, even beyond comments that may be construed as positive PR. That said, assessing Dubnyk’s market value is a subjective process, to say the least.

The biggest factor is the Wild’s cap situation, though, really. LeBrun points out that the Wild hope to figure out a solution for Niklas Backstrom and his $3.42 million cap hit, whether that comes down to a trade (good luck) or a buyout.

Consider these two points about Minnesota’s cap situation, though:

  • Even if they’re stuck with Backstrom, his contract expires after 2015-16. They also get rid of some shaky deals, such as Keith Ballard’s contract. The Wild’s situation isn’t all bad, in other words.
  • General Fanager pegs Minnesota’s upcoming cap space at about $7.8 million. They have some fish to fry (especially deals for Mikael Granlund and maybe Kyle Brodziak), but you get the impression that they have a good chance to retain Dubnyk … if the price is right.

It would be a bit surprising to see Dubnyk leave Minnesota, yet a lot can happen before (and after) July 1.

No supplemental discipline for Bollig after boarding Jackman


Calgary’s Brandon Bollig won’t face any disciplinary hearing for his hit on St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman Thursday night, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Here’s the incident in question. Bollig was given a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct:

Jackman left the game momentarily but did return, and finished with over 17 minutes of ice time.

The Department of Player Safety opted not to further punish Bollig despite his history as a repeat offender; during last year’s playoffs, he was suspended two games for boarding Minnesota Wild defenseman Keith Ballard.

Wild add defensive depth, get Leopold from Columbus


The Minnesota Wild bolstered their blueline on Monday, acquiring longtime veteran and Minnesota native Jordan Leopold from Columbus.

In exchange, the Blue Jackets receive Justin Falk and a fifth-round pick at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Leopold, 34, has split this season between St. Louis and Columbus, scoring one goal and three assists in 18 games with the Blue Jackets while averaging 17:15 TOI per night. He could be a useful piece for the Wild, who are dealing with injuries to Jared Spurgeon and Keith Ballard on the back end (and have a lot of youth on the blueline with the likes of Mathew Dumba and Christian Folin.)

Leopold carries a $1.75 million cap hit and is an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, so this is purely a rental for the Wild and some insurance for the playoff chase.

After another concussion, Ballard admits playing days could be over


Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on Dec. 9 — one of the multiple head injuries he’s suffered during his eight-year career — and, on Monday, told reporters this might be the one that ends his career.

“I’m not ready to make that decision right now,” Ballard said, per the Wild website. “I’ll make it if I get to that point, but I might not have to make it depending on how long these symptoms last.

“I definitely think about it, yeah.”

Ballard, 32, suffered the concussion and three facial fractures on this hit from the Islanders’ Matt Martin:

Prior to this, Ballard suffered serious concussion symptoms while a member of the Vancouver Canucks during the 2011-12 campaign. Per the National Post, the veteran rearguard would sleep “as many as 18 hours a day,” and “when he tried to do light exercise, he would get nauseous and go right back to bed. For days.”

Ballard was also shaken up — though he said he didn’t suffer a concussion — during last spring’s playoffs, on a hit from then-Chicago forward Brandon Bollig:

The cumulative effect of all these head injuries has Ballard worried about his future both on and off the ice. He’s previously stressed the importance of fatherhood and the ability to be there for his children once his playing days are over.

“That’s still more important to me than playing hockey,” Ballard said of being a dad. “But I’m not going to make that decision right now. I’m going to let this play out and see how I feel, and hopefully things clear up and I can get back and play.

“If it’s a choice between trying to stick it out and play — and maybe say you’re feeling well when you’re not — or getting hit again and just deciding it’s time to be done, it’s a decision for down the road. But it’s something I’m definitely going to think about.”