ST. PAUL, Minn. - One home state skater is headed to Nashville, while a former Gopher is coming home in an attempt to revive his career.
So goes the real-life soap opera you could call "Days of our Wild," as Minnesota's NHL club remakes itself under the confines of a lowered salary cap.
Free agent defenseman Keith Ballard, a member of two Gophers NCAA championship teams, has signed a reported two-year, $3M deal with the Wild after having his contract bought out by the Vancouver Canucks.
The 30-year-old Ballard, a native of Baudette, has collected 165 points in 545 career NHL games. He has battled injuries in recent seasons, and last year notched just 2 assists in 36 games with the Canucks.
Meanwhile, the Wild website is reporting that center Matt Cullen is heading south after inking a two-year deal with the Nashville Predators. Cullen told media outlets that Wild General Manger Chuck Fletcher told him that the team will not be making him a contract offer due to the constraints of the league's reduced salary cap.
It didn't take Cullen long to land on his feet after a strong season during which he scored 27 points in 42 games. The native of Moorhead signed with Nashville just hours after free agency opened.
In other Wild news, the team has announced that 23-year-old defenseman Jared Spurgeon has re-signed with club, inking a 3-year-deal. Spurgeon is a young, mobile defenseman who notched 5 goals and 10 assists in 39 games last season.
Signing Spurgeon to a new deal was a priority for the Wild, as he is considered one of the NHL's up-and-coming defensemen.
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