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Ballard traded to Canucks in five-player swap

Friday, 06.25.2010 / 10:27 PM / 2010 Offseason News

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

LOS ANGELES -- Draft day is once again busy for defenseman Keith Ballard, the biggest name player traded on a slow first day of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Just before the start of the draft here at Staples Center, the Florida Panthers traded Ballard and prospect Victor Oreskovich to Vancouver for forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner, plus the No. 25 pick in Friday's first round, a selection used on Quinton Howden.

As a result, first-year Florida GM Dale Tallon had picks No. 3, No. 15 and No. 25 in Friday's first round.

Tallon moved the No. 15 to Los Angeles for the No. 19 pick and No. 59, then took a big center, Nick Bjugstad, with the No. 19 selection. Bjugstad, an American whose father Scott played in the NHL, will play college hockey for the University of Minnesota this fall.

At No. 25, Tallon selected Howden, who a center from Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League who scored 65 points in 65 games with the Warriors last season.

Ironically, Ballard was traded to Florida from Phoenix two years ago, also on Draft night. This season, Ballard finished with 28 points while playing in all 82 games. He was among the team leader in blocked shots and hits, providing a physical presence on the blue line. In fact, his 201 blocked shots were third in the League.

But Ballard, a first-round pick back in 2002, was due $4.2 million in each of the next five seasons and Tallon is trying to remake the team with younger talent. Earlier this week, he moved forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell to the Boston Bruins in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman, the No. 15 pick this year, and a third-round pick in 2011.

The Panthers also took physical defenseman Erik Gudbranson of the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs with the No. 3 selection in Friday's Draft. The 6-foot-4, 195-Gudbranson could quickly develop into the shot-blocking, hard-hitting force Florida dealt away in Ballard.

Bernier, who scored 11 goals with 11 assists in 59 games for the Canucks last season, will be a restricted free agent in 2011. Grabner, meanwhile, was a first-round pick in 2006 and had 11 points in 20 games with Vancouver this season. He also had 48 points with Manitoba in the American Hockey League.

Oreskovich had just 6 points in 50 games with Florida this year, his first NHL action since going in the second round in 2004.

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round