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Wilderness Walk 7-5-2013: Keith Ballard Edition

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This has, undoubtedly, been the best July 4th for the Minnesota Wild since last year.

Hannah Foslien

The Wild followed up their debut "Major Players on the Free Agent Market" season from last year with a more subdued offering this July 4th. The Wild have signed Keith Ballard to a two year, 3 million dollar deal.

This deal initially pales in comparison to the Parise/Suter signings from last year- think of it as being Pinkerton vs. The Blue Album- but this deal, while it will not go full Pinkerton (which eventually was seen as the Blue Album's equal, and some would argue- including me- superior), but this move has the potential to be solid, and make a positive impact on the franchise.

The news was hustlier and bustlier- which are like my left and right arms, said Lil' Spicy in his famous "Hustle and Bustle Are Like My Left and Right Arms" speech- around the NHL, with some major moves being made. Moves that include one of our new division rivals.

But don't take my word for it, let's get on to the Walk.

Programming Note: We've got free agent talk coming all weekend, and lots of it. These will take the place of your regularly scheduled feature writing, which will resume Monday. Please keep Hockey Wilderness on one of your tabs and consult it frequently for Free Agency content.

Wild News

Wild swaps out Minnesotans | Matt Cullen leaves, and Keith Ballard comes here. I said it yesterday about Matt Cullen, and I'll say it again: Good guy, good year, too much money for a team with too many other needs, too little cap room, and for a guy who's too old to give a multi-year deal to.

Matt Cullen moving on from Minnesota; Keith Ballard coming to Minnesota | Ballard (who is hopefully more comeptent than fellow Ballard, Paul) on the other hand, seems to be a deal that makes sense for the Wild. The Wild had talked about getting bargains down the line in free agency, but getting Ballard on a reasonable deal gives them leverage that they wouldn't have if they chose to bargain-hunt without first signing a viable option on the blueline. Ballard gives the Wild a guy who can move the puck, be physical and do the dirty work (shot-blocking), and maybe even put up points. At the age of 31, you can easily see him as being a change-of-scenery guy instead of being washed up. The 1.5 million cap hit is more than reasonable, less than half of the cap space Gilbert would have occupied. I see little to dislike about this deal.

Minnesota Wild: One year later, signing Zach Parise, Ryan Suter still a big deal - I promise, it's not Tom Powers this time.

Fixing The Forwards: In-House Solutions and The UFA Market - Gone Puck Wild- Ger looks at ways to shore up the fourth line. A noble cause, to be sure.

Keith Ballard Signs; Matt Cullen Era Over for Minnesota Wild - Gone Puck Wild- Gone Puck Wild with their take on the news of the day.

Tending the Fields

The Hockey Writers | Grading The 2013 NHL Draft On A Curve: Division B- Not too... Wild... about our draft. *dodges rotting vegetables*

Off the Trail

Claude Giroux, Flyers agree to eight year, $66.2 million extension | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Big news of the day. Makes sense- Giroux is a star, Philadelphia needs him, he's making a lot of money.

Seguin to Stars, Eriksson to Bruins in blockbuster, seven-player trade | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- When you're number 2 overall budding superstar shows up to work in the same clothes for three days, you've no choice but to ship him out, right? Despite the apparent foolishness of dealing Seguin, the Bruins did well in this deal. Dallas actually becomes interesting now, as a new division rival loaded up.

Stars acquire Shawn Horcoff, as Jim Nill rebuilds centre depth in one day | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- And another move for Dallas. Not a great cap hit, obviously, but I would say Dallas did all right today.

Montreal adds size, signs Daniel Briere for two years, $8 million | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- I see what you did there, Mr. Puck Daddy!

New Jersey re-signs career Devil Patrik Elias; three years, $16.5 million | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Lost in the shuffle, but Elias is in the right place for him.

Kicking around an idea to tamp back fighting that could bump up scoring | Backhand Shelf | Blogs | Not a bad spitball from Bourne.

Martin Brodeur may be trolling Cory Schneider, says he may stick around a few extra years now | Backhand Shelf | Blogs | I hope Marty's still handcuffing the Devils at age 70.

Potential UFA bargains - The Hockey News- I would like to see the Wild sniff around former top prospect defenseman Jonathan Blum, as well as (perhaps for sentimental reasons. UMD!) Mason Raymond.

‘Many conversations’ about Peter Mueller: agent | ProHockeyTalk- Since we're talking about potential bargains.

Mikhail Grabovski bites back, blasts lack of support from ‘stupid coach’ Randy Carlyle | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Tell us how you really feel, Mikhail.

Blake Geoffrion skates for first time since injury, still pondering future | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Wish the best for Geoffrion.