Breaking down the Ballard trade

LOS ANGELES -- New GM Dale Tallon continued his overhaul of the Florida Panthers, and for the second time in a week, I really like the trade he's pulled off.

For starters, just getting Keith Ballard's five-year, $21 million deal off the books is a major coup.

A GM from one of the several Western Conference teams that spoke with Florida about Ballard on Friday couldn't look past the contract. "That's just too much money for my liking," said the GM.

Tallon has now divested himself of two big contracts in Ballard and Nathan Horton.

Friday's deal, which still wasn't officially announced pending league approval, will see prospect Victor Oreskovich also go to Vancouver for winger Steve Bernier, forward Michael Grabner and a first-round pick.

Grabner is the surprising inclusion, although he was a Dave Nonis pick, not a Mike Gillis draft pick. The former first-rounder is still only 22 years old and had 11 points in 20 NHL games with the Canucks last season. That's the kind of young asset the Panthers need as they rebuild. Remember, it was Tallon who found gems like Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg during his time in Chicago.

For Vancouver, there was a dire need to find a top-four blueliner this offseason. Assistant GM Laurence Gilman knows Ballard well from their days together in Phoenix and that was an important factor in the Canucks rolling the dice here. They believe they've got themselves a strong, two-way puck mover and someone well worth the annual $4.2 million salary (a stipend that in all likelihood is cheaper than what the top UFA blueliners will fetch next week when the market opens July 1).

Speaking of which, what does the Ballard deal mean for Dan Hamhuis? It was thought the British Columbia native wanted to go home and play for the Canucks. But is there still room now? Ballard joins a blue-line group that already includes Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Edler and Shane O'Brien. Unless, of course, the Canucks move one of those guys.

Other notes from Friday night's first round:

  • Oilers GM Steve Tambellini confirmed to ESPN.com he tried until the last minute to get the second overall pick from Boston, but the Bruins wouldn't budge. The Florida Panthers also made a heavy push for the second overall pick.

  • A Blackhawks source said Kris Versteeg is available, but the Hawks may not necessarily move him. They say they're OK with the salary cap, but they're still listening to offers. I still think they're pretty tight and might move either Versteeg or Andrew Ladd. The Versteeg sticker price is scaring away some teams at this point; one NHL GM said the price was a first-round pick plus a prospect.