Cam Ward And The Six Million Dollar Question

Cam Ward allows a goal against Ottawa this past season - USA TODAY Sports

Can the Hurricanes afford to keep Cam Ward on the roster next season?

The Carolina Hurricanes have a big question to answer before next season.  What are they going to do with Cam Ward?

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
Khudobin 36 19 14 1 2.30 0.926 1
Peters 21 7 9 4 2.50 0.919 1
Ward 30 10 12 6 3.06 0.898 0

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 New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars are close, but Martin Brodeur and Tim Thomas are both due new deals next season and chances are they will make less or find themselves on another team.

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).

3.  Perhaps the best case scenario for the club, he can try to make a trade and retain some of the contract, like Jim Rutherford has done in the past with Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu.

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.

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