According to multiple reports, including an endorsement from NBC’s Pierre McGuire, the Chicago Blackhawks have reached out to Carolina Hurricanes goalie and pending unrestricted free agent Cam Ward to discuss the terms of a potential free agent deal.
Earlier this week the Hurricanes made it clear that they wouldn’t be bringing back the 34 year old Ward after 13 seasons with the organization. Ward had expressed interest in staying with the Hurricanes organization, but with a new ownership, management and coaching staff in place, the team clearly feels it’s best to make a clean break in 2018-19.
Here’s the thing, Ward was actually pretty good for the Hurricanes last season. Ward fended the crease from newcomer Scott Darling, acquired from the Blackhawks, posting a 23-14-4 record with a 2.73 goals against average and .906 save percentage. By comparison Darling went 13-21-7 with a 3.18 goals against average and .888 save percentage. Yikes.
Had Ward been instilled as the Blackhawks’ netminder last season when starter Corey Crawford went down with injury, the team would have almost certainly been in the playoff picture. As it was, the team’s backup platoon of Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and J.F. Berube were simply not good enough. For what it’s worth, the team was 16-9-2 under Crawford before he was taken out of action. Again, it’s hard not to envision the Blackhawks in the playoffs with Crawford and Ward between the pipes rather than the revolving door of Forsberg, Glass and Berube. Then again… maybe they just hand the back up job to Scott Foster? He couldn’t be any worse than the others…
The 34 year old Ward is coming off a huge six year, $37.8 million deal that paid him an annual average salary of $6.3 million. It’s expected that Ward will likely earn himself somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million to $3 million on a one year deal this offseason. At that price point and that term, is he worth taking a chance on?
Of course, there are other free agent options on the market like Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek, but do they offer any more insurance than a veteran like Ward? Ward, drafted 25th overall by the Hurricanes back in 2002, is a proven winner having won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy back in 2006. He’s the Hurricanes’ all time franchise leader in games played (668), wins (318) and shutouts (27).