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Wild shore up defense by signing Ballard, Spurgeon

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 5, 2013 at 7:27 pm •  Published: July 5, 2013

Ballard averaged nearly 30 points per season over his first five years in the league, three with Phoenix and two with Florida. Traded to the Canucks, Ballard's game fell off in Vancouver that first season and never recovered.

"I came in there just off of a fairly major hip surgery, and I wasn't really ready to go to start the season, and you kind of get one first impression, right?" Ballard said. "It took me awhile just to get comfortable on the ice, and I had some injuries that year. It was partially that and partially trying to get accustomed to a role that was probably different than what I was used to the first five years of my career."

Said Fletcher: "We're pretty confident that we can get his game back and he can get his game back to what it was before."

Spurgeon will make $1.5 million this season, $2.9 million in 2014-15 and $3.6 million in 2015-16. He had five goals and 10 assists in 39 games last season.

Cullen signed a two-year, $7 million contract with Nashville.

"We lost a really good person and a really good player, but that's the nature of the cap system," Fletcher said. "Fortunately we have good depth up front."

Bouchard signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the New York Islanders. He'd been with the Wild since they took him with the eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft, and he's second in franchise history with 565 games and 241 assists.

"The cruel irony I guess is he's finally getting healthy, and now he's going to play his best hockey in a long time," Fletcher said. "I'm very happy for him."

Despite the loss of two of their most experienced players, Fletcher noted the Wild have seven veterans among their top 10 forwards. The departures, though, mean more contributions will be needed from Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker. Others waiting in the wings who could push for roster spots in training camp are Brett Bulmer, Justin Fontaine and Zack Phillips.

"No team's perfect, but our team right now is deep and we have several all-star caliber players and we have a lot of character in the group and some pretty good skill," Fletcher said. "It's a good mix. We like where we're at."


AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.