Canucks acquire Ballard in draft day dealing
Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis made the biggest splash on NHL draft day, acquiring 27 year old defenseman Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers. Gillis sent 2006 Canucks first round pick Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier, and the Canucks first round draft choice this year – 25th overall – to Florida. Also coming to Vancouver in the trade is 23 year old winger Victor Oreskovich.
The centerpiece of the deal, Ballard is a well rounded defenseman. He is capable of playing all situations, and is a lot more physical than his 5-foot-11 frame would lead you to believe. Ballard has spent the past two seasons with the Panthers. Ballard also brings with him a clean bill of health, something the Canucks defense is dearly lacking. The Baudette, Minnesota native has played in all 82 games the past three seasons.
Oreskovich is a physical 6-foot-3 winger who will likely compete for a spot on the Canucks fourth line this year. He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2004, and after the 2006-2007 season with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers quit hockey until this past year, when he resurfaced with the Florida Panthers after deciding he missed the game. Oreskovich played 50 games with the Panthers this past season, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon continues his work in quickly trying to rebuild his club through acquiring many draft picks and young players. Already this month, he dealt winger Nathan Horton to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Dennis Wideman and the Bruins first round pick in the draft – 15th overall. Tallon continued the rebuild today by acquiring Grabner, Bernier, and the Canucks first round draft pick. In Grabner, Tallon is getting an NHL ready prospect that looks on the verge of fulfilling his top six forward potential. Grabner found a spot on the Canucks roster late last season, scoring 11 points in 20 NHL games. Bernier never fully lived up to his potential in Vancouver. When he was traded to the Canucks he was expected to be the Sedin Twins line mate, but never amounted to more than a third line winger. Bernier gets a fresh start with the Panthers.
There will be ramifications of today’s trade for the Canucks. For starters, the dealing of Grabner all but puts to rest any trade rumours involving speedy winger Mason Raymond. Grabner and Raymond play very similar styles, and with Grabner dealt, you can expect a contract extension with Raymond to get done sooner rather than later. The acquisition of Ballard may also spell the end of much maligned defenseman Kevin Bieksa. There were many rumblings before the draft that the Canucks were shopping Bieksa around, and with Gillis saying he envisions the Canucks being a significant player in the free agent market this year, Bieksa looks to be on his way out.
The Canucks came into the Summer needing a drastic overhaul of their defense to be true contenders for the Stanley Cup next season. The addition of Keith Ballard is a big step in that direction. Expect more from Gillis, as he’ll likely be one of the busier General Managers come July 1 and the opening of unrestricted free agency.