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Vancouver Canucks acquire veteran defenceman Keith Ballard from Florida

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Vancouver Canucks made a deal to shore up their blue-line at the NHL draft on Friday, acquiring defenceman Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers.

Vancouver also received forward Victor Oreskovich in the deal.

"We had a good feel for these two players," said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. "We tried to address two needs: a puck-moving defenceman and more size. Our defence was our weak point last year, and we wanted to address it."

In return for Ballard and Oreskovich, Florida got forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner, as well as the 25th overall pick in the draft.

Florida used the pick to select Winnipeg native Quinton Howden, who played for Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League last season.

The 27-year-old Ballard had 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 82 games for the Panthers and comes at a price—he's due to make US$4.2 million each of the next five years.

"He has a real edge," Gillis said. "He can play on the power play. He can kill penalties. We wanted a defenceman who hit really hard and competed really hard, and he brings it."

Ballard will likely replace Willie Mitchell, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Bernier, a veteran of four NHL seasons, had 11 goals and 11 assists in 59 games for the Canucks in 2009-10. Grabner, a rookie from Austria last season, played in just 20 games for the Canucks.

Rounds two through seven of the draft go Saturday. Vancouver's next pick in is the fourth round, 115th overall. The Canucks also have selections in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

"The last two years, we drafted really well," Gillis said. "We have a number of development players and we're going to continue to be active in the college free-agent market."

Howden broke his left leg as a six year old, and had to wear a chest-to-toe body cast. He had to learn to walk again before starting to play hockey at age seven.

Last season with Moose Jaw, Howden compiled 28 goals and 37 assists in 65 games.


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