It was nine regular season games ago, Thursday February 9th, when the Canucks – about to play Keith Ballard’s hometown team, the Minnesota Wild – announced that the underachieving defenseman was injured . The team never gave a timeline but it was clear that he’d be out of the line-up for a while, especially as the injury changed in nature from whiplash, to a possible concussion to, true story, "upper-body symptoms."
Up until today there’s been a lot of speculation about the nature of the injury, and whether or not Ballard would go on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) as a result. If he was placed on LTIR, it was noted, he’d free up a fair bit of cap-space for the trade deadline. As it turns out, that’s exactly what has happened.
Read on past the jump!
Today Vancouver’s hockey club made it official, placing Ballard on LTIR, a move that gives the Canucks (at least) 4.6 million dollars in cap-space going into the trade deadline (via capgeek). Of course, they could have even more cap-space than that, as Andrew Ebbett and Aaron Volpatti are both eligible to go on LTIR as well. Here’s Bob Mckenzie, reporting the Ballard news:
VAN put Keith Ballard on LTIR, Creates $4.2M worth of cap space. May be setting up for deal. Maybe I Ott to look into that. #TradeCentre
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 25, 2012
It’s worth noting that most Vancouver sports media seem to regard Ballard’s injury with some suspicion. There are several reasons for this, mostly that the timing of Ballard’s injury was convenient from a "flexibility under the cap" perspective. Secondly, and I may get into trouble for saying this, but the injury itself is convenient.
I don’t mean to seem callous, and I wish Ballard a speedy recovery. That said, the team’s comments on the injury have focused on their being unsure about whether or not it’s a concussion or a neck injury. Considering that concussions are a sensitive subject, and taking into account the recent misdiagnosis of Sidney Crosby’s concussion (he’d also suffered a neck injury), a neck or concussion injury is really the ideal political cover for the Canucks.
I’m not saying that this is a phantom injury, but I’d say it’s fair to suggest that, if you were planning on having a player come down with a phantom injury in order to increase your team’s flexibility under the salary cap, Ballard’s reported injury would be the way to play it.
It makes me squirm to describe someone going down with a neck injury as "lucky," but if Ballard’s injury is what the team says it is, any move that the Canucks make at the deadline will have been made possible by the timing of it. That’s lucky. Though, of course, sometimes you make your own luck.