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Canes Country Round Table Volume Five: Cam Ward

Here are a few more Cam Ward opinions, as the round table weighs in

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

My recent article about Cam Ward from earlier this week not only spurred a bit of discussion on the blog, but it also stirred up some debate among the staff of Canes Country.  We decided to put together a round table discussion about the goalie, along with some trade proposals from those of us who think a trade is possible and would be best for the club.

Just to quickly review the facts, the Hurricanes are currently on the hook for over $8.5 million of cap space next season to be used for Ward and Anton Khudobin.  That number is the second highest dollar amount committed to goaltending in the NHL, behind only the New York Rangers.

The team basically has three choices this offseason regarding Ward:

1.  They can bite the bullet and keep both goalies, knowing that the expense would restrict them money wise, as to whom they can sign to help out the forward corps or blueline.  (They are currently at $52 million with seven forwards and five defensemen signed, (including Ryan Murphy), and the Cap is projected to be about $69-$70 million.  They have several players yet to sign.) (Cap Geek)

2.  They can buy out the goalie, which would help out the cap space involved, but would cost $9 million in cash to be spread out over four years in equal payouts.

3.  They can try to trade him, knowing that they would have to eat some salary, take back another bad contract in return, (or possibly both), or throw in an asset to sweeten the deal.

(Those of us putting forth trade proposals of course recognize that Ward has a no-trade clause and the goalie would have to approve any deal before it could happen.)

Cory Lavalette - Editor

It's probably not the popular opinion, but the Carolina Hurricanes should enter 2014-15 with two goalies — and one should be named Cam Ward. There’s no doubt that the Canes will enter next season with Anton Khudobin as their No. 1 goalie. Not only did he have a great 2013-14, but he was rewarded with a two-year extension that keeps him under contract until at least the summer of 2016.

Ward’s deal — which is set to pay him $13.5 million to Khudobin’s $4.5 million over the next two years — also expires after 2015-16, and he'll be making a lot of money to be a backup. But there are some questions surrounding Khudobin’s durability (he played just 36 games this past season) and with a new coach coming in, it's conceivable that there could be more of a rotation to limit the wear and tear on No. 31.

So why charge Ward, who when healthy has played more than or close to 70 games on four occasions, with being Khudobin’s understudy? Because he deserves the chance.

Last season, Ward was given the benefit of the doubt as the early season No. 1. He lost that battle, but can you find a more talented backup than Ward? Yes, he'll be expensive, but chances are the Hurricanes would have to take back a bad contract and/or keep some of the cost of Ward’s deal is they traded him this offseason. Then throw in the cost of a decent backup (at least $1 million, I'd say) and the savings suddenly aren't that significant. It's the same scenario if the team buys Ward out.

Yes, Ward has gotten countless chances to again be the goalie that led Carolina to a championship in 2006. Those chances have run out. But as a backup? Cost aside, the Canes would be hard pressed to find one as good.

Brian LeBlanc - Editor

Let's go ahead and put the buyout talk to bed right out of the gate.  There's more of a chance of Pierre McGuire going an entire broadcast without mentioning a junior hockey team than there is of the Canes paying Cam Ward $9 million to not play for them.

So that leads to the question of what the Canes will do.  Note that how this question is phrased makes a huge difference.  Should the Canes try to trade Ward?  Probably, yes. The Canes have proven over the last few years that a high wage bill isn't a guarantee of success, and one would think that Ron Francis will realize very quickly that the Canes' bang for the buck with Anton Khudobin and a generic backup (Justin Peters or someone else) would be greater than with Ward earning $6 million-plus to sit on the bench (and, don't forget, Ward's salary continues to go up by $100,000 per year until the end of 2016).

However, there is one big problem with that, and it's the reason I think Ward will start the 2014-15 season on the Canes' roster: it takes two to pull off a trade, and the market for goalies earning a salary out of whack with recent performance is rather thin.  One possible destination, the Islanders, were taken off the table when they signed Jaroslav Halak to an eminently reasonable $4.5 million deal - a solid $2 million per year less than Ward - for the next four years.  That would be the same Jaroslav Halak who has outplayed Ward over the last three years fairly substantially despite playing nearly an equivalent number of games. (More to the point: Halak has eight shutouts in 68 games over the past two seasons.  Ward's last shutout came in March of 2012.)

So that leaves two potential suitors that make the most sense: Calgary and Vancouver.  The issue is that the Canucks are nearly capped out as it is, and while the Flames have cap space they also have only 14 players under contract for next year so they'll need to spend money just to fill out a roster.  Thus, either team would likely require the Canes to either eat part of Ward's salary or take back a bad contract in return (or both) - Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Jason Garrison stand out as the most likely candidates, (on Flames and Canucks).

As a result, come October, expect #30 to remain on the Canes' roster, but if Francis can figure out a way to dump Ward's contract on another club, I think he will do it.  Next offseason, when Ward only has one more year left on his deal, I expect him to be a more valuable commodity and it wouldn't surprise me if he moves on at that time.  But for now, it's business as usual.

Jame Kellner - Editor, Phoblographer

I think Cam Ward will be a Hurricane at the start of the 2014-15 season. I might feel differently if any of the below scenarios were applicable:

  1. If Ward only had one year remaining on his contract instead of two.
  2. If there weren't other quality goaltenders (Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, etc, according to CapGeek there are 17 who played in over 20 games last season) available via free agency.
  3. If other organizations not in the market for a UFA goaltender weren't looking for the Canes to pick up an equally expensive/underperforming contract as part of a trade.
  4. If a new coaching staff wasn't on the way (including reassignment of the prior goaltending coach).
  5. If there was a ready replacement in the Canes' development system.

If you subscribe to the belief that Cam Ward is still a serviceable goaltender (and I realize many of you don't, but I do), then worst case scenario is the Canes go into next season with an expensive but experienced goaltending tandem. Versus any of the other scenarios, I'd rather go into next season bearing that cross, and focus instead on what I think is the bigger problem, and that's a farm system with the grand total of one goaltender (19-year-old Daniel Altshuller) currently under contract.

Jeff Berrier (PackPride17) - Contributor

Honestly speaking, I could sit here all day and try to come up with hypothetical trades involving Cam Ward and argue why they would be good for both teams.  It’s something that I enjoy and it’s something I do every now and then in random threads.  But I’ve been looking at this since before the trade deadline, trying to figure out what is a realistic spot for Cam to go to and what could the Hurricanes get in return.  And my conclusion is, based on his performance from the past 2 seasons and his salary, there just aren’t many options for Cam Ward.

Probably the best option for Cam would be to be bought out and then go sign cheaply with a team in need of a goaltender, but that doesn’t completely work for the Carolina franchise.  Paying him $9 million over the next 4 years to play for someone else is especially tough for a "budget" franchise.  The Canes could always retain half of his salary, but that still would cost them over $6.5 million for him to play elsewhere.  Trading him is the most difficult option and keeping him as a backup is a tough pill to swallow.  Ron Francis finds himself in a very bad situation thanks to his predecessor.

So I believe Cam Ward will be back in a Hurricanes uniform next season, to the detriment of the team.  He will be unhappy with a backup role and inconsistent when he actually plays, but he will be collecting a fat paycheck.  His and other contracts will prohibit management from acquiring other players that could help balance the lineup and we will fail to see the playoffs yet again.  The Hurricanes will be looking to go into a full rebuild come sometime in 2016.

C-Leaguer - Contributor

Winnipeg for Pavelec has seemed like the logical destination for a while now to me. With that said Miller being on the market changes some things. I've been thinking that Cam might get traded in season next year as someone who outperforms expectations decides to make a move. This could still be Winnipeg. Still like to get something done at the draft, but I've been thinking that the trade deadline might be the more logical time. Canes may be more willing to keep more salary then.

Matt Krombach - Intern

With a new General Manager in place, there is no predictability to what may happen during the 2014 offseason.  Ron Francis stated that he was looking to have a new coach in place around the time of the 2014 Draft, could there also be player changes by then?

Cam Ward, as we know, didn't have the season we know he is capable of having.  In retrospect, his dismal season has led to rumors of a possible trade and the end of his tenure as a Carolina Hurricane.  The possible destinations varied from the New York Islanders to a potential landing spot competing for the number one spot with Eddie Lack in Vancouver.  However, what might be the most feasible target for Ward is 380 miles from his hometown Saskatoon in Calgary, Alberta.

After trading Jerome Iginla to the Boston Bruins Pittsburgh Penguins in March of last season, the Calgary Flames made it clear that they were headed into a rebuilding stage.  They hired Brian Burke and his hair as the new general manager and have the 4th pick in this years upcoming draft.  After battling injuries and inconsistent play, a fresh start in Calgary might be the best scenario for Cam Ward.

In return the Hurricanes would receive Dennis Wideman, a viable candidate to be the Hurricanes top blueliner.  After trading Tim Gleason, the Hurricanes haven't really had a number one defenseman.  Joni Pitkanen is injured, but facing facts he just isn't what the Canes need for producing top minutes.

Both Ward and Wideman's contracts aren't the most desirable by any stretch, but the outcome on both sides would be about even.  As tough as it would be to see Ward in a different sweater, sometimes change can be the best thing.

Bob Wage - Managing Editor

Cam Ward has had some tough times for sure, not only last season, but the season before that as well.  We are talking about a goalie who had a save percentage of less than .900 after 30 games last season.  That is not exactly a small sampling.  Plus, he has been injury prone, with knee problems, a history of back problems, and now most recently groin problems.  None of this can be taken lightly for any goaltender.

While I think a buy-out is out of the question, I do believe the Canes will do whatever is possible to trade him.  Even if the Hurricanes retain $2 million a year in salary, that is still less than half of what a buy-out would cost, and then the other team has an experienced goalie for about $4.5 million a year, which is not that unreasonable.

The Islanders are out of contention now and I think Miller will end up in Vancouver, thanks to his previous relationship with their new GM, Jim Benning.  Calgary and Winnipeg are both possible destinations, although a straight up trade of Ondrej Pavelec for Ward does the Hurricanes no good.  They exchange one questionable goalie for another and while Pavelec's annual cap hit is lower, it is for three more years, not just two.  I would rather take my chances with Ward and be done with him in two seasons.


The Jets are reportedly unhappy with Evander Kane.  If Francis was to include, say Ryan Murphy with Ward for Pavelec and Kane, that is something worth consideration.  Kane has major skills plus brings a physical game the Hurricanes desperately need.

Calgary is going to need to do something at goalie, but they have many options. Certainly, Dennis Wideman and spare parts for Ward and spare parts is a possibility.

In my opinion, I would not rule out Edmonton.  I know they recently signed Ben Scrivens to a two-year deal, but after reading some of the reports out of the World Championships, I would not be feeling warm and fuzzy with this guy if I were running the Oilers.

Their other goalie is Viktor Fasth, who has a lot of experience in Europe, but who has a total of 37 NHL games to his credit.  Those are two big question marks in goal for them.

The Oilers have not seemed happy with Sam Gagner, who is earning $5 million a year for the next two years, while having scored just 10 goals last season.   He is not physical, (5'11) but he has a lot of skill and might make a good fit at third line center, or second line center, if Eric Staal is moved to wing.

Maybe the Canes could offer Ward, Murphy, and a draft pick and/or retain a little salary, for Gagner and Fasth?

The Hurricanes might not be able to pull off a trade, but in my opinion, they should do everything possible to try.  Ward might still have some greatness in him and we have all seen his outstanding saves as recently as last year, but consistency is his problem.  His save percentage has dropped three straight years, (.915, .908, .898), and he has not had a shutout in two seasons, (while both Khudobin and Peters did last year.)  This organization simply cannot afford the gamble to pay almost $7 million a year for a backup goalie with a history of injuries.