A changing of the rearguard could be in the works for the Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2013 - 11:21 PM

The Wild is buying out defenseman Tom Gilbert, and ex-Gopher Keith Ballard might be a replacement.

hide

Keith Ballard, a former Gopher, spent the past three seasons with Vancouver but will be bought out by the Canucks. That would make him available for the Wild to sign.

Photo: Randy Johnson, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The salary cap-strapped Wild began the process of freeing up an additional $4 million to use this summer when it placed veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert on unconditional waivers Wednesday.

Once the Bloomington Jefferson product clears at 11 a.m. Thursday, Gilbert will be bought out from the final year of his contract. At the same time, Keith Ballard also will clear unconditional waivers so the Vancouver Canucks can buy out the remaining two years of his contract.

With the Wild suddenly in the market for a defenseman, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Wild inquires into signing the former Gophers defenseman. Both Gilbert and Ballard will become free agents when the market opens at 11 a.m. Friday.

Ballard, 30, who won national titles as a freshman and sophomore at the University of Minnesota, will be seeking a one- or two-year deal so he can re-establish his career as a quality two-way defenseman after three tumultuous years in Vancouver. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher can’t call Ballard until Thursday. But in a new collective bargaining agreement wrinkle, teams could begin calling free agents at 11:01 p.m. Tuesday as part of a two-day recruitment window.

Other defensemen that might be of interest to the Wild include Andrew Ference, Rob Scuderi, bought-out Mike Komisarek and Michal Rozsival. The Wild also plans to give Matt Dumba, its 2012 first-round draft pick, a long look in training camp.

Veteran center Matt Cullen, who can become a free agent Friday, hasn’t ruled out the Wild but fielded a number of calls from teams Wednesday. “I’m just waiting to hear what Minnesota’s doing, but in the meantime, I’ve taken some calls from other teams,” Cullen said. “It’s a weird deal the way it’s set up now, and I’m just trying to go into this with as open a mind as possible. Chuck’s been very up front and honest with me, and I’ll continue to do the same thing with them and keep communicating.”

Despite Fletcher making and receiving “a ton of calls” Wednesday, it was a much less hectic day for the GM than exactly one year earlier when he and Wild owner Craig Leipold were sitting across a table in Madison, Wis., from Ryan Suter putting the final touches on a Suter-Zach Parise July 4 twin inking.

Coincidently on Wednesday, Suter became the first Wild player to be named an NHL First-Team All-Star. Four days earlier, Suter’s defense partner Jonas Brodin made the All-Rookie Team. Suter’s honor came after he led the NHL in average ice time (27 minutes, 16 seconds per game), finished second among defensemen with 28 assists and third with 32 points.

It’s fair to say Wednesday wasn’t as cheery for Gilbert, Suter’s fellow Wisconsin Badger who couldn’t be reached for comment. He will receive two-thirds of the $3 million owed to him ($2 million spread over two years) but suddenly is looking for work. Every team is allowed two amnesty buyouts (which free a team of cap hit) that can be used this summer or next.

“Due to the NHL salary cap decreasing this season, we needed to make this difficult decision to give the team more flexibility,” Fletcher said in a statement.

It’s Fletcher’s second buyout as Wild GM. Two years ago, he bought out defenseman Cam Barker. This buyout might not have occurred if the Wild was allowed to buy out Dany Heatley and his $7.5 million cap hit, but Heatley is considered an injured player because of season-ending shoulder surgery.

Gilbert, acquired from Edmonton at the trade deadline two seasons ago for veteran defenseman Nick Schultz, scored three goals and 18 points in 63 games for his hometown Wild. He struggled at times last season. He was minus-11, was scratched twice and saw his ice time decrease to an average of 19:19 a game. This was a player who logged more than 30 minutes six times after the 2012 trade.

Before last season, Gilbert and center Kyle Brodziak, who also had a rough season, each were stricken with pneumonia. While neither used the illness as an excuse, both players lost significant weight and Gilbert was hospitalized.



  • related content

  • Gilbert

  • Ballard

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland 4 Top 8th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 7 Top 9th Inning
Chicago WSox 1
Texas 13 Bottom 9th Inning
Houston 3
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado 0 Bottom 6th Inning
Arizona 0
Oakland 0 Top 5th Inning
LA Angels 0
Los Angeles 1 Bottom 4th Inning
San Diego 1
Washington 4 Top 4th Inning
Seattle 2
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Francisco 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 21 3rd Qtr 8:07
Houston 0
Colorado State 14 3rd Qtr 4:20
Colorado 17
UNLV 0 1st Qtr 0:13
Arizona 13
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 3 2nd Half 23:00
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 39 3rd Qtr 4:00
Phoenix 59
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close