The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers made an impact trade prior to the draft starting. The centerpiece seems to be former first round pick and Minnesota Golden Gopher Keith Ballard– who probably hopes to make a final home in British Columbia.
Ian McIntyre of the Vancouver Sun believes Ballard takes the place of impending UFA defender Willie Mitchell. Although he may not fill the shutdown void, the Canucks will be a better team on the back end and take pressure off the oft-injured Kevin Bieksa.
Ballard joins his fifth NHL organization and will bring a much needed offensive force to the Canuck defenders.
In his five NHL seasons, the 27-year-old never played a single playoff game which explains his inconsistent point totals. With a true playoff team and supporting cast Ballard should prove himself to be the player everyone thinks he can be.
On the flip side, the Panthers received the 24th overall pick (Quinton Howden) and two former first round picks: Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner.
Bernier can play a comparable game to Andrew Ladd, whose skill and pedigree make him a great fit to both agitate and chip in the odd goal. In Vancouver, he and Grabner were buried by more skilled players like Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson but that should not discount their potential.
Grabner got selected by the Canucks with the 14th overall pick in 2006. In 20 games with the team he posted 11 points after scoring 67 goals over less than three AHL seasons. During last year’s Calder Cup he helped his team with 10 goals and seven assists in 20 games. In other words, he has pure scoring potential and compares to a young Alexei Kovalev.
Time will tell with these deals, but the early analysis seems to point to good value for both sides.