Russo says that Ballard is “leaning toward retirement,” but hasn’t yet made up his mind. Ballard has suffered a handful of concussions in his career and it happened again last season. In early December Ballard took a frightening hit from the Islanders’ Matt Martin that left Ballard on the ice convulsing and with broken bones in his face.
Ballard missed the rest of the season.
He told Russo, “I’m just trying to get healthy. If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”
Ballard is a veteran of 604 games split between the Wild, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks.
Leopold, Russo says, has not fully decided to retire, but “he also doesn’t have his agent making phone calls.” A Minnesota-native, he came to the team from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline last season (following The Letter), his third team of the year. Leopold made it clear early in the summer that he hoped to play for Minnesota to be close to his family, otherwise he would consider retirement.
Russo points out that there’s a chance of a PTO or a contract for Leopold if something happens requiring the Wild to sign another defenseman, particularly in light of their very tight cap situation. A contract for Leopold would provide depth for a cheap cap hit in that situation. Right now, it doesn’t look likely.
Leopold played 695 games in his career, split between the Wild, Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche.