The Wild’s potential blue line to start the 2013-14 season was ironed down Friday when veteran Keith Ballard signed a two-year, $3 million deal and restricted free agent Jared Spurgeon was re-signed to a three-year, $8 million deal.
With salary cap space limited, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild headed into free agency looking to sign a player “to a favorable cap number that had a reasonable opportunity to exceed the value of his contract.”
Ballard, 30, who has scored 165 points in 545 games, fit that perfectly, Fletcher said. He’s mobile, competitive and comes to Minnesota with a chip on his shoulder looking to prove himself all over again after a few rough years with the Vancouver Canucks.
“We obviously believe he’s better, that he can play at a higher level than he did the last few years, and I think he feels that way,” Fletcher said. “I really think [assistant coach] Rick Wilson will help him get back to his game, and if he does, I think we got terrific value in that signing.
“It just made too much sense, and I give Keith credit. We presented our scenario, and told him what we had. He didn’t want to shop. He wanted to come.”
Spurgeon, 23, who signed as a free agent in 2010 after the Islanders let the draft pick go, will average $2.667 million a year after averaging $527,000 the past three years. A bit undersized at 5-9, he has scored 12 goals and 50 points and accumulated only 12 penalty minutes in 162 career games.
“I think as we’re seeing today, the prices on 4, 5, 6 defensemen have far surpassed the dollars that we committed to Jared, so I feel very comfortable with it,” Fletcher said. “But I hope people keep questioning him. He’s a highly motivated player to begin with, but my guess is his next contract will even be more than this one.”
Cullen, Bouchard gone
Fletcher said it was difficult calling veteran Matt Cullen on Wednesday night to tell him the Wild just couldn’t afford to keep the centerman. He ended up signing a two-year, $7 million deal with Nashville.
“He’s been a good teammate, he’s a hard-working guy, he’s a good hockey player and he’s a pro,” Fletcher said. “It’s hard to replace guys like that. I have a lot of respect for him on and off the ice, but it is what it is. Fortunately, we have good depth up front. That’s not to say you easily replace Matt Cullen. I’m not implying that.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard also signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Islanders. In Wild history, Bouchard ranks second with 565 games, fourth with 106 goals, second with 241 assists and third with 347 points.
Prospect camp set
The Wild will hold its annual summer prospect development camp at Xcel Energy Center, starting Tuesday and running through July 14. Thirty-six prospects, including all 2013 draft picks, 2011 first-round pick Zack Phillips, 2012 first-round pick Matt Dumba and prospects Erik Haula, Brett Bulmer and Johan Gustafsson will attend.
Instead of scrimmages this year, the Wild’s Andrew Brunette and Brad Bombardir have designed a 3-on-3 tournament. They are free and open to the public: Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Friday at 2:45 p.m. and July 13 at 2:45 p.m. Gate 1 will open 30 minutes before the start of each session.