The Minnesota Wild were among the teams to utilize a compliance buyout, sending defenseman Tom Gilbert out of town, but they were also one of the teams to snatch up another buyout victim up off the market. They signed d-man Keith Ballard to a two-year contract, worth $3 million total.
It’s a fresh start for the veteran defenseman, who has had a really rough go of things the past couple of years. He had previously signed a contract with the Vancouver Canucks for six years and a cap hit over $4 million per year. Safe to say, things didn’t quite work out at all in his two years with the Canucks.
Ballard struggled to stay healthy in those two years, and even when he was healthy, he didn’t perform as we had grown accustomed to seeing him in his years with Phoenix & Florida. In his first five seasons combined, he missed only 13 games, playing in all 82 games in four out of his first five seasons in the league.
He missed 17 games in his first season with the Canucks, followed by another 35 in 2011-12. The 2013 season saw him miss 12 more. Even when he was on the ice, the performance wasn’t there. A d-man capable of putting up 20 or 30 points totaled just 16 across three seasons in Vancouver.
It’s safe to say that his fresh start with the Wild will be extremely beneficial. He heads to a locker room without much turmoil, and a fanbase that is dedicated, but nowhere near the hostile environment that Vancouver can be. He’ll be more of a role player from the blue line, rather than a key to the defense, lightening the pressure on him greatly.
This should prove to be a nice match, between Ballard and the Wild. He signed a smaller contract and was an under-the-radar signing. The lowered expectations, both from his market and his contract, should benefit him, in addition to the simple change of scenery he’ll see in moving to Minnesota.