Cam Ward is the most successful goalie to play for the Carolina Hurricanes. He helped the team to the Stanley Cup in 2006, but since then the team has noticeably struggled. The team is rebuilding, and new GM Ron Francis will have to make the decision on bringing back the pricey veteran goalie. A low budget team, the Hurricanes have a lot of money invested in their former All-Star goalie. Should the team try and retain the former playoff MVP? My opinion is no.
The team has Cam Ward signed until 2018 and he is scheduled to make $6,750,000 this year. Only six other NHL goalies are scheduled to make more money than Cam Ward next year (two of them will be starting in this seasons Stanley Cup Final), and at the moment the Hurricanes will have around an $8 million cap hit for both goalies currently on the lineup. Ward’s price is a lot for a player who has been mostly injured in the past two seasons. The team can try and buy out the goalie, but the cap hit will be more than keeping him on the roster next season.
Injuries and Recent play
Injuries and the 2012-2013 lockout have deterred the goalie from playing in a full season since the 2011-2012 seasons. When Ward has been in net, he definitely has not lived up to the accolades he has accomplished over his career (a Conn Smythe Trophy, and an NHL All-Star game start). He has played 47 games with the top team in the past two seasons with a record of 19-18-7. The record is not terrible, but Ward has a 39 win season under his belt in the past. At the top of his game, Cam Ward moves well laterally in the crease, controls his rebounds, and shows a quick glove hand. When Ward was 100% healthy he is one of the best goalies in the game and has the ability to lead a team on a playoff run. Those playing days might be in the past for Ward, especially with the Hurricanes.
Anton Khudobin has showed himself as a more than just serviceable starting goalie in the NHL. He makes the saves he is supposed to, he is young, and he doesn’t cost the big bucks that are
required for some of the big name goalies in the league right now. Khudobin proved this season that he has what it takes to be a solid goalie in the league, and he will only get better with more time in net. He could also benefit from the help the organization can put in front of him, if they can get a big yield from trading Cam Ward. He seems confident, and giving him the nod as the starting goalie could spur him to become an elite talent in the NHL.
Where Do They Go From Here?
Sometimes goalies become complacent, and a change of scenery could help both the team and the goalie after a few rough seasons. Moving Ward would give him that fresh start with a new team that might help rejuvenate his play. A goalie with his credentials can also bring some trade pieces to a low budget Carolina Hurricanes team that needs some more help. That help can hopefully rejuvenate the Staal brothers, and get them excited about playing hockey in Carolina.Hurricane fans and writers have named run down almost every series of trades with countless teams that will make both trading teams better. A trade that would intrigue me would be sending him to Edmonton but the return probably won’t yield what Ron Francis is looking for. There are other teams looking for goalies, but in every scenario the Hurricanes will not receive what they want in return. In most trade scenarios they will most likely have to still pay a lot of Ward’s salary. The option I think the Hurricanes should take is just bit the bullet and buy-out the rest of Ward’s remaining contract. They will have to pay a lot but I think it would be beneficially for both parties moving forward. Cam Ward will get the fresh start he needs, and might be able to come back stronger for a new team in a new city. If Ward stays on the team he will probably be a back up to Khudobin, and it will negatively affect Ward’s mind state, and his play when he does get on the ice. I don’t see it out of the question with new GM Ron Francis, stating that keeping captain Eric Staal on the team depended on the teams cap situation. Ward and Eric Staal make about the same, and Staal has shown he is the better player moving forward. I can’t imagine a world were Eric Staal is expandable and Cam Ward is not.