Cap Crunch Watch: Keith Ballard on Waivers

Thomas Drance
July 01 2013 01:56PM

With the Canucks deciding not to trade Alex Edler on Sunday before the Swedish blue-liners no-trade clause kicked in, it's pretty clear that the inglorious Keith Ballard era in Vancouver is at an end. The Canucks placed the talented, frustrating, over-priced seventh defenceman on waivers today; and not the unconditional variety of waivers, which a player must clear before a team can excercise a "compliance buyout" on that players contract...

It would be a Miracle on Ice level upset if Keith Ballard were claimed by an NHL team on waivers for the full price of his deal. After all anyone who visits capgeek.com/canucks and sees that the club has seven players to sign, and a hair more than four million in cap-space, can figure out that one way or another the math doesn't make sense in Vancouver unless the Canucks can get rid of Ballard's deal. Or is there a way to make the math make sense?

Read past the jump for more.

Generally speaking teams aren't lining up to claim an inconsistent player due 8.4 million over two years. Jussi Jokinen, for example, cleared waivers ahead of the trade deadline despite being more useful than Ballard, and due significantly less. While Ballard's price tag and unsteady performance since 2010 would be enough to make it probable that no team would claim him on waivers, Vancouver's salary cap situation makes that probability a veritable certainty.

After all, teams know that on Friday they'll probably be able to negotiate their own more affordable contract with the underachieving Minnesota born defender...

Put simply, Vancouver's salary cap situation is very nearly unworkable if Keith Ballard remains on the roster at his full hit.

To illustrate this I'll refer you an excellent post the Canuck Way put together today wherein they listed every player eligible to recieve a qualifying offer from the Canucks by tomorrow, and the amount that each players qualifying offer will have to be. 

Well if the team was able to grind down Chris Tanev and all of their other pending RFAs and make them accept their one year qualifying offers (which won't happen) and were willing to rely on Darren Archibald and Bill Sweatt in the bottom-six (which they probably won't be), then they could technically fit Kellan Lain, Jordan Schroeder, Archibald, Sweatt, Tanev and Joslin under the upper limit while retaining Keith Ballard (total cap hits of those six players: $3,969,125 million). Of course even that leaves the team a backup goalie short of a twenty-three man roster...

I suppose the Canucks could technically make it work if they found a taker for David Booth (something I'd be amazed by considering Booth's current injury status and recent injury history), or more likely Jannik Hansen, but that shouldn't be a realistic option from a pure hockey operations standpoint. Or from a business standpoint either, considering how successful the Canucks organization has been the past decade.

There's one other option, I suppose, for how the Canucks might proceed. This is a stretch but, it's possible that Keith Ballard could be loaned to a professional club outside of North America. We might mention that he'd need to clear waivers before doing so (as Christobal Huet did shortly after the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup victory).

Under the new collective bargaining agreement you can't really bury cap-hits in the same way that you could when the Blackhawks did so with Huet, but there are still some savings to be incurred. Consider Article 50(B)(6) of the 2013 NHL collective bargaining agreement:

For any Player on a One-Way NHL SPC who is Loaned to a club in another professional league, the Averaged Amount of such SPC less the sum of the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary and $375,000 for that League Year (e.g., $900,000 in 2012-13) for the period during which such Player is Loaned to such professional league; plus.

The league minimum salary next season will be $550,000 so a Ballard loan would net the Canucks an additional $925k in salary cap-space. That additional space (on top of the four million and fifty thousand in space the team currently has available)  would allow the Canucks to fill out a twenty-three man roster in a very specific way.

For example they'd have to have Eddie Lack on the roster as a backup instead of the slightly more expensive Joacim Eriksson. The club would then require Joslin, Schroeder, Tanev to accept their one year qualifying offers. Then the Canucks would have enough space to fill out the roster with three league minimum veterans. The team would be undermanned of course, and have no ability to maneuver in midseason short of a timely LTIR injury, but in theory it's doable.

Doable and realistic are two different concepts though, and the only realistic options for Keith Ballard remain a retained salary transaction or a compliance buyout.

Primary assist to @CamCharron for his CBA help.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 NM00
July 01 2013, 02:20PM
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I was looking so forward to draft day with rumors of Schneider & Edler being available.

Now it appears the Canucks "reset" will include the same core sans their best player and limitied flexibility to improve the bottom of the roster.

Good luck Ballard!

Much like Schneider & Luongo, you have handled a poorly managed situation remarkably well.

You have earned your release from lower mainland jail.

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#2 AC
July 01 2013, 02:30PM
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I keep reading about retained salary transactions as if they make sense for the Canucks, but it just doesn't add up to me.

Why would a team like the Canucks, who have always tried to use the whole cap to improve the team and have made the most out of every loophole, want to rob themselves of cap space for the benefit of a competing team? That seems like a really bad hockey ops move. I would imagine they would do everything possible to avoid that, including a buyout, even though that seems to me to be a horribly bad business move.

Unless I'm missing something...

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#3 NM00
July 01 2013, 02:42PM
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AC wrote:

I keep reading about retained salary transactions as if they make sense for the Canucks, but it just doesn't add up to me.

Why would a team like the Canucks, who have always tried to use the whole cap to improve the team and have made the most out of every loophole, want to rob themselves of cap space for the benefit of a competing team? That seems like a really bad hockey ops move. I would imagine they would do everything possible to avoid that, including a buyout, even though that seems to me to be a horribly bad business move.

Unless I'm missing something...

It made more business sense for Aquillini to approve outside-the-cap expenses like buyouts when the team was raking in playoff revenues.

While the team is still doing very well financially, there is little incentive for Aquillini to give Gillis more money. Where is the evidence that Gillis has used this money well?

I can think of taking on Lukowich to obtain Ehrhoff. Everything else appears to be a waste of money.

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#4 Ruprecht
July 01 2013, 03:07PM
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NM00 wrote:

It made more business sense for Aquillini to approve outside-the-cap expenses like buyouts when the team was raking in playoff revenues.

While the team is still doing very well financially, there is little incentive for Aquillini to give Gillis more money. Where is the evidence that Gillis has used this money well?

I can think of taking on Lukowich to obtain Ehrhoff. Everything else appears to be a waste of money.

We are paying now for past sins. Some of those "Loopholes" we exploited were actually viewed as cap circumvention. At the time we were spending around the cap, buying every bit of extra space we could, wiggling every angle to our benefit. Gaining a competitive edge by operating in the grey areas. We were basically part of a group of managers that were thumbing our noses at the previous CBA and thus Mr. Bettman's baby. So now this time around, new CBA, loopholes we helped create are removed and we pay the price for our past transgressions. Exactly the way Brian Burke drew it up.

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#5 Lemming
July 01 2013, 05:20PM
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Are you telling me the Canucks want to bury Keith Ballard in the minors rather than use a compliance buyout on him? If that's true, that would be way, way, way worse than what's been happening with Luongo and Schneider.

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#6 JCDavies
July 01 2013, 05:28PM
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@Lemming

"Gillis also indicated (no surprise here) that Ballard not in their plans. Will be bought out unless he's claimed on waivers (won't happen)" - from Brad Ziemer (@BradZiemer)

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#7 bob
July 01 2013, 05:58PM
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Why did you write this? Why did you then publish it?

While you're writing fluff, how about a piece on the merits of Booth Kesler Burrows as a shut down line (also Hunter-Diver-Biter)

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#8 Lemming
July 01 2013, 06:27PM
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@bob

Reminder, don't feed the troll.

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#9 EGS
July 01 2013, 07:00PM
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Ok, can somebody confirm something for me...

Bob McKenzie says he's not on the type of waiver that permits a buyout, so according to that, that's not an option, so if nobody claims him off waivers (which seems unlikely) what happens next, as far as Canucks cap hit and Ballards eligibility to re-sign elsewhere?

Just want to make sure in understand this.

Thnx.

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#10 Jamie E
July 01 2013, 07:15PM
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Maybe it's time to lay off Mike Gillis for a moment and start asking some hard questions about the scheming, interfering tightwad who owns this team.

Refused to buy out Lu thus FORCING the Schneider trade. And now appears to be making the franchise jump through every possible hoop before doing the obvious and buying out Ballard.

It's like Aqualini is some horrifying combination of Harold Ballard and the Maloof brothers.

Why in the name of god are we contemplating a retained salary deal for a guy with one year left on a $4 million deal. Just buy him out cheapskate.

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#11 JCDavies
July 01 2013, 07:24PM
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@EGS

From Botchford:

"On Monday morning Ballard was placed on conventional waivers, not the waivers required for a buyout. For the Canucks to buy Ballard out, they need to first notify him and then place him on unconditional waivers."

http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/07/01/canucks-use-waivers-trying-to-avoid-a-keith-ballard-buyout/

From Gillis:

"We'll put him on unconditional waivers and we'll have to buy him out"

http://www.teamradio.ca/news/canucks-gm-mike-gillis-on-schneider-trade-ballard-situation/

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#12 JDM
July 01 2013, 07:27PM
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I can see claiming Ballard simply because you have the certainty of getting the player. If you have cap space to spare, and think he may be useful in your top 4, I'd do it. He's not worth 4.2, but you may not care so much about that. It's unlikely, but there's a small chance someone does it.

With Ballard bought out or claimed, this seems to make some sense.

Sedin 6.1 Sedin 6.1 Burrows 4.5 Booth 4.25 Kesler 5 Kassian .87 Higgins 2.5 Schroeder 1 Hansen 1.3 Comeau 1.0 Lapierre 1.3 Weise 0.8 Sestito .75 Garrison 4.6 Hamhuis 4.5 Bieksa 4.6 Edler 5 Corrado .6 Tanev 1.3 Joslin .7 Luongo 5.33 Lack .75

That isn't a terrible roster. Comeau is added simply to put a body there, finding someone to play 4th line wing in free agency shouldn't be hard. You still have a million or so in space, if one or more RFA's ends up costing an extra couple hundred G's somewhere.

The team is weakest at RW, but Hansen and Burrows slide up and down the lineup if Kassian can't make it, and you also have a few prospects who might make a play for a RW or C spot.

This is about all you can do with the cap crunch. And it's still a team with 2 top 30 centres, four legit top 4 d-men (and a potential 5th in Tanev), and a top 10 quality goalie. It's a team worth watching.

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#13 JCDavies
July 01 2013, 07:32PM
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@Jamie E

Feeling really disillusioned with ownership right now.

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#14 NM00
July 01 2013, 08:31PM
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Since everyone is in such a good mood, here are a couple of facts.

The Canucks are spending a shade under $50 million of their cap on their 10 most expensive players (Sedin, Sedin, Luongo, Kesler, Edler, Bieksa, Garrison, Hamhuis, Burrows & Booth).

The average opening day age of these 10 players is 31. In case everyone was wondering about the Flames comparisons...

The Canucks have approximately $1 mil/player to fill out a 23 man roster and be a touch under the cap for in-season callups etc. Some of this has already been devoted to Higgins, Hansen & Sestito.

To fill the depth, the Canucks will be drawing from one of the worst farm systems in hockey prior to yesterday's draft.

The 2013 draft will probably move up the Canucks from awful to below average so that's something.

But that required trading the team's best player and the NHL save percentage leader of the past 3 seasons combined.

Finally, the Canucks president & GM broke promises or showed a willingness to break promises to 3 prominent players (Luongo, Schneider & Edler).

Not quite Carter, Richards & JVR. But it's getting there.

A Tanev offer sheet not unlike the one made to Hjalmarsson a few years ago would be the icing on the cake of Gillis' reset.

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#15 EGS
July 01 2013, 10:22PM
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@JCDavies

Thnx.

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#16 pheenster
July 01 2013, 11:11PM
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@NM00

I thought you said Tanev wasn't very highly thought of outside the Vancouver organization. If that's true, why would anyone sign him to an offer sheet?

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#17 Ruprecht
July 02 2013, 12:07AM
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@pheenster

Depends on how pissed Mac T is that Gillis refused his offer. Gillis won't deal with them any other way, they need D. Nice little revenge factor and to stick it back to him. I'm not even sure we can match a 3 mill offer sheet at this point. Sorry for jumping in.

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#18 Ruprecht
July 02 2013, 12:09AM
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Ruprecht wrote:

Depends on how pissed Mac T is that Gillis refused his offer. Gillis won't deal with them any other way, they need D. Nice little revenge factor and to stick it back to him. I'm not even sure we can match a 3 mill offer sheet at this point. Sorry for jumping in.

OOps meant 2 mill offer sheet.

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#19 NM00
July 02 2013, 12:57AM
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pheenster wrote:

I thought you said Tanev wasn't very highly thought of outside the Vancouver organization. If that's true, why would anyone sign him to an offer sheet?

Did you miss the part where I referenced the Nick Hjalmarsson offer sheet?

SJ stuck it to the Hawks when they were in salary cap hell. It had nothing to do with thinking much of Hjalmarsson.

Might make sense for Columbus to offer sheet Tanev. More John Davidson revenge for Gillis' dumb offer sheet of Backes.

In case Bernier wasn't enough.

That wasn't about thinking much about Bernier, either.

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#20 Lemming
July 02 2013, 01:57AM
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Wasn't Backes St. Louis?

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#21 JCDavies
July 02 2013, 02:02AM
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Lemming wrote:

Wasn't Backes St. Louis?

So was Davidson, at the time.

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#22 T-Bone
July 02 2013, 03:28AM
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Gillis talked about Ballard on 1040 with BMac. At the end he mentioned how he didnt want to get into specifics as it would be improper.

Sumthins up with Ballard.

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#23 Nat
July 02 2013, 01:03PM
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I fully understand that ownership would want to at least try waivers to see if they can avoid a buyout for Ballard. And I get that they probably hated the idea of buying out Luongo just so another team can pick him up for less and pay him over the next 10+ years while he helps another team.

And yet...it seems a bit odd. It doesn't quite line up with the Canucks team we've come to know, who spends a ton of money on sleep doctors + nutritionists + swanky facilities + new arena tech (projector system) + other sports science tech that has been rumoured but not revealed. Are the Aquilini's struggling financially? Has their financial situation changed? Seems a bit odd that NOW they are penny pinching.

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#24 NM00
July 02 2013, 01:15PM
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@Nat

1-8 in the last 2 playoffs. Only 5 home playoff games in 2 years.

Why cut into the profits when there isn't any evidence Gillis has used the extra resources effectively?

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#25 dopeasballs
July 02 2013, 01:20PM
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... so they're not buying out Ballard? If he clears waivers do they have to put him back on "unconditional" waivers to buy him out?

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#26 Mantastic
July 02 2013, 08:04PM
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@dopeasballs

he already cleared waivers, so either tomorrow he gets put on unconditional waivers or the canucks missed their window.

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#27 pheenster
July 02 2013, 11:47PM
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NM00 wrote:

1-8 in the last 2 playoffs. Only 5 home playoff games in 2 years.

Why cut into the profits when there isn't any evidence Gillis has used the extra resources effectively?

In that case, why don't they fire the guy?

I see what you're saying (Gillis has screwed up royally and we don't trust him anymore, so we're taking his credit card away so he can't spend any more of our money) and I don't necessarily disagree with the "Gillis has screwed up" part. But surely they (and you) can see that by tying Gillis' hands in his efforts to improve the team, they're ensuring continued playoff ineptitude (and the commensurate reduction in revenues/profits) going forward.

If you're going to continue to employ Gillis, trust him to run the team. If you don't trust him, can him. But don't keep around but not give him the tools to do the job.

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#28 NM00
July 03 2013, 11:32AM
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@pheenster

Gillis should be able to run the team without needing a bailout from Aquillini.

"Running the team" doesn't mean he's entitled to using a massive buyout.

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#29 pheenster
July 03 2013, 10:25PM
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NM00 wrote:

Gillis should be able to run the team without needing a bailout from Aquillini.

"Running the team" doesn't mean he's entitled to using a massive buyout.

1) Ballard's buyout isn't massive. He was bought out today, so this point is somewhat superfluous now anyway. It was kind of strange that they put him conventional waivers first, but whatever.

2) A buyout isn't a bailout. It's a tool.

3) You're missing my point on Gillis. You're a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them, which leads me to believe that you're being purposefully obtuse here. But just in case, I'll try again: Either Gillis has the full confidence of the Aquilinis, or he doesn't. If he doesn't, he should be let go. Not removing Gillis in that scenario is unhealthy for the franchise and suggests that much more unpleasant issues may be present behind the scenes.

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#30 NM00
July 04 2013, 11:55AM
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@pheenster

The "massive buyout" to which I am referring is clearly Luongo.

"Either Gillis has the full confidence of the Aquilinis, or he doesn't."

That's a false dichotomy. A GM can have less-than-full confidence of the owner before he is fired.

I would hope Aquillini is losing patience with Gillis but needs one more year of confirmation before giving him the axe.

But who knows

I don't think denying Gillis a $27 million bailout is an indication that Aquillini has "lost full confidence" in him. It's more of an indication that Aquillini is not a complete idiot.

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