With the NHL draft behind us, the attention turns to the free agency period beginning on July 5th. In the mean time, teams begin to offload salary and make roster changes in anticipation of auction season. One of the moves that has already been made has seen Vancouver place Keith Ballard on waivers (regular waives, not buyout waivers). While the Rangers have already attempted to add blueline depth by adding Justin Falk, the Rangers could consider taking a risk on Keith Ballard.
Ballard has been a marginal player for the Canucks despite having a cap numbing $4.2m cap hit. His contract doesn’t come off the books until after the 2014/15 season. That said, Ballard is only 30, can skate well and is a solid player at both ends of the rink when he’s on his game. Much of the decision here depends on the organization’s intentions with Michael Del Zotto (once again thrown into the rumour mill by Brooks) and the health of Marc Staal. With Mike Sauer no longer in contention, the Rangers would really solidify their blueline if Ballard would pan out.
Whichever team decides to take a run at Ballard will have to do so quickly, thanks to him being on waivers. Assuming he doesn’t clear, teams interested in the former Panther will have to make a quick decision on taking on $4.2m/year for another two years, and while it isn’t a daunting amount to take on, it is a significant commitment in the short term.
Ballard could help the Rangers. The Rangers need more blueline generated offense and he’d have the potential to be a 30-point guy in New York. Ballard has had injury issues in Vancouver which have limited his effectiveness, but he’d be a familiar addition for Alain Vigneault. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another issue. Ballard saw the press box a lot last year under Vigneault but maybe a change would benefit the Canuck blueliner. Maybe.
Sometimes you need to take a risk and take a chance on a player whose rep has taken a hit. With free agency being very underwhelming this offseason, and players available in July traditionally being overpaid, maybe Ballard is in fact a better option than those available on the open market. Maybe.