Over the course of the next month, Konopkaesque will review each player who suited up for the Wild this season, with a few exceptions. 1) They had to play at least ten games during the season and/or playoffs (sorry, Brett Bulmer, Carson McMillan and John Curry) and 2) they had to finish the season as part of the organization, which ironically excludes the man for whom this blog is named, among others.
So, without further blathering, here’s today’s subject:
Keith Ballard, D, Age 31
Remaining contract (per capgeek): 1 year remaining, $2 million (UFA in 2015)
Games: 45 (Regular Season) 3 (Playoffs)
Goals: 2 (Regular Season) 0 (Playoffs)
Assists: 7 (Regular Season) 0 (Playoffs)
+/-: -7 (Regular Season) -3 (Playoffs)
PIM: 37 (Regular Season) 0 (Playoffs)
ATOI: 13:36 (Regular Season) 10:44 (Playoffs)
What Did He Do?: Consider the landscape of Minnesota Wild defensemen when Ballard was signed last summer. Ryan Suter was coming off a Vezina nomination, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin were emerging, but young. Marco Scandella had spent nearly all of the 2013 season in the minors before finally becoming a regular late in the season, but was an unknown commodity, and Clayton Stoner seemed expendable and Nate Prosser more so. Gone were Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk. The Wild needed bodies, and they were willing to take a gamble on a native son who had seemingly broken down in Vancouver over the past few years.
Fast forward to this offseason. Suter is still Suter. Spurgeon has fully established himself. Brodin had ups and downs, but is still a baby and has unbelievable natural skills. Scandella has become a second pair rock, while Stoner has reemerged as an annoying thumper (just ask the Blackhawks). Prosser still seems expendable, but Matthew Dumba and Christian Folin are right there to compete.
So where does that leave Ballard? He didn’t provide much to the Wild, and for a player who was brought in with the idea of some power play time, Ballard played just 31:01 with the man advantage all season. And of course he missed 37 games through injury, further shoving him down the pecking order. Nothing Ballard did all season should really convince anyone that his injury and scratch-filled seasons in Vancouver were an aberration, and he looks like nothing more than a seventh defensive option at this point.
What to Expect if You’re Expecting: Ballard is all ours for another season, at a cool $2 million (his cap hit is only $1.5, so they have that extra $500,000 laying around if they want to either A) throw some more money Mark Parrish’s way for old time sake or B) clone Stephane Veilleux). If you are wondering, Ballard cannot be bought out, since his contract was signed under the new CBA, and at that price, he would be an unlikely candidate anyhow. He’ll be in the mix next year, but he’ll probably spend a lot of time in the press box (if he isn’t in the training room) watching either Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, or a free agent (c’mon, Matt Niskanen) take his place.
Trade Prospects?: Nope. Well, maybe, but don’t expect a whole lot back. 7th round draft pick or space-filling minor leaguer at best.
Season Highlight: This one has some backstory, so stay with me. Every time I think about Benoit Pouliot, I clench my fists and break nearby objects, mainly because the Wild could have drafted Anze Kopitar or Carey Price instead. Now, I realize that it’s stupid to play the “could have had this guy” draft game, and that my anger should be directed not at Pouliot, but Doug Risebrough, but listen, it’s my story, and I’m going to carry this irrational hatred to my grave. So with that in mind, here’s Ballard hip-checking Pouliot beautifully.
It seriously looks like Ballard turned the puck over for the express purpose of hip checking Pouliot into the third row, but I don’t care. That hit was worth the entire $2 million.