Six Possible Destinations for Cam Ward This Offseason
Could Cam Ward be on the move this summer?
By David Malinowski (@dmmm14)
In an extremely flat goaltending market heading into the 2014 offseason, there is an abundance of talent at a variety of prices.
Now there’s another name to an already bucolic list.
Cam Ward has confirmed to General Manager Ron Francis on Tuesday that he is indeed willing to waive his NTC given the right situation. This comes as no surprise, with the Hurricanes looking to shave salary off of the books and run with a younger and less injury-prone alternative in understudy Anton Khudobin.
Several teams could be looking for an upgrade in goal for next season. It is important to state the obvious: every player waiving a no-trade clause wants to wind up on a cup contending team, but there are only 30 starting jobs for goaltenders. Finding the right fit is next to impossible and offers little to no significant returns to the expending teams in almost every case.
Despite the fact that there are few sensible GMs that would take a run at a goaltender who posted a 10-12-6 record with a .898 SV% and a 3.06 GAA this season, goaltending is not a free lunch in the NHL. Ward also carries a $6.3M cap hit, so where could he hypothetically fit?
1.) Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have a new front office with President Trevor Linden and GM Jim Benning in the fold. Despite signals from the public to enter a full rebuild as well as moves by ex-GM Mike Gillis that would suggest that the glory days are over in Vancouver, there have been no signs of a roster reconstruction so far. When Vancouver traded both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo at the Draft and trade deadline respectively, they left a young Eddie Lack as their starter. Perhaps bringing in a veteran and a winner in Cam Ward would not only benefit Lack, but provide stable goaltending in Vancouver. It would also allow for the once-promising Jacob Markstrom to develop consistency down in Utica.
2.) San Jose Sharks
When San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead to the eventual champions in April, it was hardly all Antti Niemi’s fault. That being said, there have been rumblings out of San Jose that the Sharks aren’t exactly pleased with the current setup in goal, and they could be looking for an upgrade. Cam Ward isn’t exactly the most glorious option, but the whole “winning pedigree” lingua franca keeps coming back to the guy’s name, especially since he won a Cup and a Conn Smythe in 2006. The Bay Area in and of itself will be asking a lot of questions this summer, but goaltending really shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for them.
3.) Minnesota Wild
Back to square one, the Wild seem to be content going forward with an oft-injured Niklas Backstrom and a potential time bomb in Josh Harding, who is still battling MS. Minnesota has young assets and a replenished cupboard of prospects that Carolina is looking for, and Ilya Bryzgalov is far from the best option in goal, should the team look to make a change in net. Darcy Kuemper in the eyes of the front office is still unproven and has to be qualified this summer as an RFA, so this is another unlikely option for Ward. That being said, the organization took a major step forward this season in taking Chicago to six games, and Minnesota finally looks to be on the rise. If the Wild can figure out how to re-sign a lot of UFA and RFA components and make use of their final compliance buyout, perhaps Cam Ward is in the fold after all.
4.) Washington Capitals
Washington isn’t happy with the status quo, and Braden Holtby’s inconsistency isn’t exactly getting them anywhere either. The new guy in town GMBM (can that please stick?) and head coach Barry Trotz (that sounds weird, too) would like some stability in goal. This is a team that rented the services of Jaroslav Halak at the trade deadline as well, a gamble that ultimately didn’t pay off. Is this the year that Washington makes a drastic change? Anything is possible.
5.) Pittsburgh Penguins
Here’s a big market team that has been plagued with a lot of terrible contracts and a lack of depth, but it really has a major flaw in Marc-Andre Fleury. Nobody trusts him in an elimination game anymore, and Pittsburgh has both a new GM and is on the hunt for a new coach. Jim Rutherford, the “temporary hire” in Pittsburgh has the opportunity to bring in a very familiar face to backstop Crosby and co., one that won him the ultimate prize during his long tenure as the Whalers/Hurricanes GM. This scenario seems way too good to be true, as it offers the opportunity to have Ward stick around for two years, the duration that Rutherford himself suggested would be his personal tenure in Pittsburgh. This move would allow for the new GM to make his own goaltending call in a couple of years, all while providing Pittsburgh with some much needed short-term (or extended) goaltending help. It’s a win-win for the Pens, really.
6.) Winnipeg Jets
Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t have his head on straight, and sadly, Ondrej Pavelec’s numbers didn’t scare him enough to want to upgrade in goal, causing Jets fans to weep. Pavelec’s numbers weren’t even NHL-average last season, and they can be to blame for Winnipeg’s lack of a playoff berth. That being said, Winnipeg does need a new, NHL-caliber goaltender, one that would be forced to play for them. Winnipeg won’t ever be a strong destination for free agents, so acquiring a goaltender via trade is a very feasible and almost required option should Winnipeg ever desire to be competitive. They’re also another team that is rumored to be looking to clean house this summer, with Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, and Michael Frolik all listed as expendable. If only they had a mirror. Winnipeg has a fantastic window to sign or trade for a goaltender (any option is an upgrade, really) right now and improve into a bubble team almost overnight. Sadly, they’ll remain in the basement until they wake up from the Czech nighmare.