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Minnesota agrees on 2-year contract with defenceman Keith Ballard, cap casualty in Vancouver

This Fourth of July for the Minnesota Wild was a little less eventful than the last.

Still, the Wild made another holiday splash by bringing in more help for their blue line.

The Wild announced Thursday they agreed to terms on a two-year contract with defenceman Keith Ballard, who was available after being let go by Vancouver earlier this week with a compliance buyout to clear space under the salary cap.

The Wild said paperwork for Ballard's deal would be filed Friday, when the free agent market opens. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported Ballard's contract is worth $3 million. He was scheduled to make $4.2 million in each of the final two seasons of his previous deal with the Canucks.

The 30-year-old Ballard managed just two assists in 36 games for Vancouver in 2013. Over three seasons there since being acquired in a draft-day trade in 2010 with Florida, Ballard had only 16 points in 148 games. He was hindered by several injuries.

Before that, though, the former University of Minnesota star was far more productive. Over five seasons with Phoenix and Florida, he averaged nearly 30 points while playing in 97 per cent of the games. As a rookie with the Coyotes in 2005-06, Ballard had eight goals and 31 assists and played in all 82 games. In his first year with the Panthers in 2008-09, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Ballard had six goals and 28 goals with a plus-14 rating while again playing all 82 games.

Ballard will essentially replace defenceman Tom Gilbert, another local guy, who was dumped by the Wild with a compliance buyout this week. Ballard is from Baudette, Minn., on the Canadian border. He won two NCAA championships in his career with the Gophers.

Another Minnesotan, centre Matt Cullen, will be moving on as the Wild's most prominent unrestricted free agent. Cullen told the Star Tribune that Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher informed him he couldn't offer him a fair contract given the team's cap constraints.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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