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Numbers Game: Canucks Deal For Ballard

Scott Cullen
6/25/2010 8:20:41 PM
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Vancouver found some toughness to bolster their blueline, but paid a steep price.

Numbers Game looks at the Canucks' draft day deal with the Florida Panthers.

The Canucks Get: D Keith Ballard and LW Victor Oreskovich.

Ballard, 27, battles and is durable, playing all 82 games in four of his five NHL seasons. He takes on the toughest defensive matchups -- a challenge for a Panthers team that was frequently overmatched on talent -- and played more than 22 minutes a night, so he's a ready-made top-four defenceman for the Canucks.

Signed for five more years, at $4.2-million per season, Ballard will move into the shutdown role that was occupied by Willie Mitchell before he suffered a concussion last season.  When the Canucks faltered in the second round, that lack of defensive presence on the blueline was glaring.

I like to say that a hard-nosed player like Ballard can play for my team any day, because I like his style, but given that the Canucks will be his fifth organization there is a chance that he could play for a lot of teams before his career is finished.

23-year-old Victor Oreskovich hadn't played hockey for three years before trying out with the Panthers (and former junior coach Peter DeBoer), earning a quick promotion to the NHL.

With six points in 50 games as a rookie, Oreskovich is a work in progress but, if nothing else, he can skate, hit and create turnovers on the forecheck if he sticks with the big club in a fourth-line role. 

Oreskovich is signed to an inexpensive entry-level deal, paying him $575,000 next season.

The Panthers Get: RW Steve Bernier, RW Michael Grabner and a first-round pick.

Bernier is a 25-year-old enigma as it appears unlikely that he'll become the scorer that had been expected when he was drafted 16th overall in 2005 and then scored 14 goals in 39 games as a rookie. 

At the same time, Bernier is a big, physical presence and, while he hasn't scored 20 goals in a season yet, that's still a possibility with the right linemates, particularly if he moves into a role on a scoring line in Florida.

Bernier will make $2-million next season, after which he'll be a restricted free agent.

22-year-old Austrian winger Michael Grabner has scored 45 goals in 104 AHL games over the last two seasons and put up 11 points in 20 games with the Canucks, suggesting that he's ready for a regular NHL job.

Grabner's speed and finishing ability could land him a spot on a scoring line in Florida, possibly replacing some of the production that left town when Nathan Horton was traded to Boston.

In his last year of his entry-level contract, Grabner's cap hit at the NHL level is a little under $850,000.

The 25th overall pick may yield an NHL player but it's not a sure thing.  For a team like the Panthers, just adding another pick, while shedding Ballard's salary, gets the rebuiling process jumpstarted.

Giving up two wingers that can play top nine roles in Vancouver, possibly top six in Florida, is a hefty price when taking on a contract with five years remaining, but if Ballard provides a tougher defensive presence, then he'll give the Canucks a better chance to win in the immediate future and this is a team built to win now. 

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.


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