Ward was injured a couple of times last year, as he was the year before, and ended up with a career worst .898 save percentage. Anton Khudobin stepped in and played very well, so well in fact that he earned a new two-year contract as he took the number one job away from Ward later in the year, even when both goalies were healthy.
|2013-14 Goalie Stats|
As you can see by the stats above, Justin Peters may have played well enough to deserve a shot at being the full-time backup in 2014-15, (that is a different question for another day), but Ward is still under contract while Peters is not.
As a matter of fact, Ward's contract is a big problem for the Hurricanes. He has two more years left on it with a cap hit of $6.3 million each year, (actual cash to be paid is higher at $6.7 million next year and $6.8 the next).
Ward's salary cap hit, along with Khudobin's, put Carolina near the top of what NHL teams will spend on goalies next season. The only team higher is the New York Rangers and that is because Henrik Lundqvist has a $8.5 million dollar hit all by himself.
The chart below shows the projected or current top two goalies for each team, along with their current salary caps. (The UFA or RFA in parenthesis means that they need a new contract next season.)
(Salary cap info provided by (Cap Geek).
|2014-2015 Goalie Salary Caps|
|Team||Goalie 1||salary||Goalie 2||salary||total cap|
|Anaheim||Hiller (UFA)||$ 4,500,000||Anderson||$ 1,150,000||$ 5,650,000|
|Boston||Rask||$ 7,000,000||Johnson (UFA)||$ 600,000||$ 7,600,000|
|Buffalo||Neuvirth||$ 2,500,000||Enroth||$ 1,250,000||$ 3,750,000|
|Calgary||Ramo||$ 2,750,000||MacDonald (UFA)||$ 925,000||$ 3,675,000|
|Carolina||Khudobin||$ 2,250,000||Ward||$ 6,300,000||$ 8,550,000|
|Chicago||Crawford||$ 6,000,000||Raanta (RFA)||$ 925,000||$ 6,925,000|
|Colorado||Varlamov||$ 5,900,000||Berra||$ 1,450,000||$ 7,350,000|
|Columbus||Bobrovsky||$ 5,625,000||McElhinney (UFA)||$ 600,000||$ 6,225,000|
|Dallas||Lehtonen||$ 5,900,000||Thomas (UFA)||$ 2,500,000||$ 8,400,000|
|Detroit||Howard||$ 5,291,667||Gustavsson (UFA)||$ 1,500,000||$ 6,791,667|
|Edmonton||Fasth||$ 2,900,000||Scrivens||$ 2,300,000||$ 5,200,000|
|Florida||Luongo||$ 4,533,333||Ellis||$ 900,000||$ 5,433,333|
|Los Angeles||Quick||$ 5,800,000||Jones||$ 550,000||$ 6,350,000|
|Minnesota||Backstrom||$ 3,416,667||Harding||$ 1,900,000||$ 5,316,667|
|Montreal||Price||$ 6,500,000||Budaj||$ 1,400,000||$ 7,900,000|
|Nashville||Rinne||$ 7,000,000||Hutton (RFA)||$ 550,000||$ 7,550,000|
|New Jersey||Schneider||$ 4,000,000||Brodeur (UFA)||$ 4,500,000||$ 8,500,000|
|Islanders||Nabokov (UFA)||$ 3,250,000||Halak (UFA)||$ 4,500,000||$ 7,750,000|
|Rangers||Lundqvist||$ 8,500,000||Talbot||$ 562,000||$ 9,062,000|
|Ottawa||Anderson||$ 3,187,500||Lehner (RFA)||$ 870,000||$ 4,057,500|
|Philadelphia||Mason||$ 4,100,000||Emery (UFA)||$ 1,650,000||$ 5,750,000|
|Phoenix||Smith||$ 5,666,667||Visentin||$ 870,000||$ 6,536,667|
|Pittsburgh||Fleury||$ 5,000,000||Zatkoff||$ 600,000||$ 5,600,000|
|San Jose||Niemi||$ 3,800,000||Stalock (UFA)||$ 625,000||$ 4,425,000|
|St. Louis||Miller (UFA)||$ 6,000,000||Elliott (UFA)||$ 1,800,000||$ 7,800,000|
|Tampa Bay||Bishop||$ 2,300,000||Lindback (RFA)||$ 1,800,000||$ 4,100,000|
|Toronto||Bernier||$ 2,900,000||Reimer (RFA)||$ 1,800,000||$ 4,700,000|
|Vancouver||Markstrom||$ 1,200,000||Lack||$ 1,150,000||$ 2,350,000|
|Washington||Holtby||$ 1,850,000||Grubauer||$ 578,000||$ 2,428,000|
|Winnipeg||Pavelec||$ 3,900,000||Montoya (UFA)||$ 601,000||$ 4,501,000|
The Hurricanes are widely known as a budget team, but even if they spent to the cap again next season, is this the best use of their money?
Ron Francis has a couple of options to consider.
1. He can keep Ward, rotate goalies, keep the current roster about the same as it was last year and hope for the best.
2. He can buy out Ward's contract, but that is very expensive, (almost $10 million to be paid out over four years).
The teams I would be calling would be Calgary, Vancouver, and Ottawa. Rumors indicate that the Senators want to part ways with Jason Spezza and while the Canes do not need another number one or two center, they would probably be better off with Spezza in the mix than with Ward.
In any event, it will take some extra creativity to get a deal done and Francis will be heartily challenged in his first offseason as GM, even after he hires a new coaching staff.
We will be speaking more about this again soon.