The Carolina Hurricanes have made a lengthy list of great deals this summer, bringing in free agents Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg, trade acquisitions Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell and draft picks Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier, but one move that has been met with some controversy is the two-year extension of long-time backstop Cam Ward.
Instead of going the free agent or trade route for a goalie, the Canes decided to stay in-house as they look to make a playoff push this upcoming season. Given how that has played out for Carolina over the past several seasons, there is a reason to be skeptical, but let’s not be.
The career of Cam Ward has been one full of ups and downs. Recently, there have been more downs than ups. With nagging lower-body injury issues and lackluster play, Ward’s job security as Carolina’s number one goalie has never been worse.
Many debate that the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native has never played up to his magical 2006 Stanley Cup run, and despite an occasional pocket of elite play over the past decade, they are right, but that’s not what Carolina needs him to be right now.
Instead, the Hurricanes need Cam Ward to be solid. That’s really all they need. The club didn’t get that during the first half of the 2015-16 season, and in turn, they plummeted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Things changed in December.
Both Ward and backup Eddie Lack elevated their play to a level that was enough to get them into the playoffs. If they had played to that level for an 82-game stretch, Carolina would have broken their playoff drought.
Based off his play late last year, now is not the time to give up on a goalie that has, for the majority of his time as a Cane, been reliable.
With the influx of young blueliners last year in Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, paired with already established defensemen in Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey, the Hurricanes have a defensive core that could be damn-near elite this season and for many years to come. This should help Ward get to a good place with his performance, like it did from December, on last season.
Be Cautiously Optimistic with Cam Ward
In an offseason full of optimism, I suggest that we keep that going with Ward. He isn’t Carey Price, but he can be good enough to propel the Hurricanes into a playoff spot. He’s a leader and a long-time member of this organization. He has represented the team incredibly well for ten years, so now we just have to hope that he can hold it down for another season.
Ron Francis has an impeccable track record as the club’s general manager, and if he thinks that Cam Ward can be the goalie who helps Carolina get into the playoffs for the first time since 2009, then he has my trust.
Expect the 32-year-old to play with a chip on his shoulder this season. He isn’t ignorant to what is being said about him. He will be on a mission to complete what he started. Ward was here when the playoff drought started, and he will likely still be here when it ends.