Defenceman Keith Ballard looking for 'fresh start' as free agent

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks #4 Keith Ballard carries the puck out of the Canucks end during the second period against the San Jose Sharks in a regular season NHL  game at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, March 05 2013.
 

Vancouver Canucks #4 Keith Ballard carries the puck out of the Canucks end during the second period against the San Jose Sharks in a regular season NHL game at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, March 05 2013.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

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VANCOUVER — There are no buy-out blues for defenceman Keith Ballard, who says he is excited about an opportunity to get his National Hockey League career back on track.

Ballard, as of Thursday, will be a former member of the Vancouver Canucks. The team is using one of its two allowed compliance buyouts to rid itself of the remaining two years of Ballard's contract.

"I am excited I have got an opportunity to get a fresh start on my career and get it back to where I think it can go," Ballard said in a phone interview Wednesday from his Minnesota home.

Ballard was scheduled to make $4.2 million in each of the next two years. The Canucks will buy him out for two-thirds of what he had remaining, or $5.6 million. That money will be paid out over four years and the Canucks get some desperately needed salary cap relief.

Both Ballard, who now becomes an unrestricted free agent, and his agent, Ben Hankinson, expressed confidence that he'll find employment fairly quickly with a new NHL team.

"I am not worried about sitting all summer and not getting a deal," Ballard said. "It's just about trying to find the right fit. I think there will be teams that are interested.

"I am not looking for anything long term or trying to get a lot of money. I am more just looking for an opportunity."

"Keith is just looking for a chance to play, which he hasn't really had," Hankinson added in an interview. "I don't think it will take long for him. I don't think he is looking for the long term, he is looking for an opportunity and there are going to be opportunities. So I think it will happen in the next few days."

Ballard was acquired in what turned out to be a lopsided trade with the Florida Panthers on June 25, 2010. Ballard came to the Canucks along with Victor Oreskovich in exchange for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and Vancouver's first round pick (25th overall) in the 2010 draft. The Panthers used that pick to select forward Quinton Howden.

Things never seemed to work out for Ballard during his three seasons with the Canucks.

"I think at the beginning I didn't really know where I fit in," Ballard said. "And once I found where I fit in and where I could contribute it was different from the roles I had previously played.

"It wasn't any one or two reasons, it was trying to get comfortable . . .I had some injuries when I first came to Vancouver and two years ago I had a pretty solid feel where I fit and was playing well and then I had a concussion and missed 30 games. It was a number of things."

Despite the frustrations, Ballard said he and his family cherish the time they spent in Vancouver.

"I am disappointed from a sense that I really enjoyed my time in Vancouver, the organization, my teammates. That's the hard part of it. My wife and I loved living there, we loved so much about it. But this is the business side of hockey."

Hankinson said he is disappointed that Ballard won't get a fresh start with new Vancouver coach John Tortorella.

"It's unfortunate the timing with the coach leaving and now the buyout and he'll never get a chance to play for the Canucks with anyone other than Alain (Vigneault)," Hankinson said. "But he's pretty excited about getting an opportunity somewhere else."

ICE CHIPS: Under terms of the buyout Ballard will receive $1.4 million in each of the next four years from the Canucks. Those payments do not count against the salary cap. . .The Canucks are expected to announce details of their development camp later this week. It is expected to be held next week at Rogers Arena. . .Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported Wednesday that former Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan is being considered as a possible Canuck assistant coach under Tortorella.

bziemer@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/bradziemer

PHOTOS: CANUCKS CAP CRUNCH, PLAYER BY PLAYER

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks #4 Keith Ballard carries the puck out of the Canucks end during the second period against the San Jose Sharks in a regular season NHL  game at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, March 05 2013.
 

Vancouver Canucks #4 Keith Ballard carries the puck out of the Canucks end during the second period against the San Jose Sharks in a regular season NHL game at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, March 05 2013.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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