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Canes Country Exit Analysis: Cam Ward

At the midway point of the 2008-09 season, Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward looked like he was again destined for the kind of up-and-down year he produced the previous two seasons. In March, The Hockey News ranked Ward the No. 21 goalie in the league — probably too low based on his pperformance, but it was a reflection of his perceived play due to his inconsistency.

But after dominating down the stretch and carrying the Canes deep into the playoffs for the second time in four NHL seasons, Ward's name is now being included in discussions on who should be on Canada's roster for this winter's Olympics. It's hard to question Ward's upside now that he's twice been the lynchpin for long postseason run. But can the 25-year-old goalie — still one of the youngest starters in the league — put together the start-to-finish, dominant season that would make him a part of the Vezina Trophy discussion each year?

2008 - Cam Ward 68 3928 39 23 5 10 160 2.44 1901 1741 .916 6

The Good: After the Hurricanes' coaching change, Ward displayed the skills, demeanor and durability every team hopes for out of its starting backstop. He won nine in a row before losing the regular season finale to Buffalo, and his hot play continued into the postseason. Outside of the Canes' four-game ouster to the Penguins — when he was battling injury —Ward was magnificent in the playoffs, outdueling one of the best of all time in Martin Brodeur and following that up by topping eventual Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bad: Ward started the season a pedestrian 8-7-3, plus had a five-game losing streak in mid-January. He was also victimized by the eventual Stanley Cup champs, allowing 17 goals in Pittsburgh's four-game sweep of Carolina.

The Stats: It was a career year for Ward statistically.

  • 39 wins — career high (two more than previous high set in 2007-08).
  • 23 regulation losses — second lowest as a starter in his career (two more than career low of 21 in 2006-07)
  • 5 overtime/shootout losses — matches total from 2007-08, one fewer than 2006-07.
  • 6 shutouts — career high (four in 2007-08).
  • .916 save percentage — career high (.904 in 2007-08).
  • 2.44 goals-against average — career high (2.75 in 2007-08).
  • 1,901 saves — career high (1,870 in 2007-08).
  • 3,928 minutes played — second in career (two fewer than 2007-08).

The Money: Ward made $2.5 million in 2008-09, the second year of a three-year contract that paid him $2 million in 2007-08 and will pay him $3.5 million this upcoming season. The Hurricanes are looking to sign Ward to a long-term deal, likely in the $5 to $6 million a year range. Even if they are unable to get a deal done before or during this season, Ward only holds restricted free agent rights after 2009-10.