In yesterday’s Carolina Hurricanes blog, I put up a series of 3 polls asking Canes fans who the team should target this summer. People voted on both who SHOULD the Canes target at goalie and who WILL the team add at goalie. The results were striking. As of writing this post, Cam Ward rated seventh out of 9 players with only 6 percent of votes for who SHOULD the Canes target. But he rated first with a whopping 39 percent for who WILL the team add. Basically, Canes fans prefer many other options over Cam Ward but largely expect that he will return anyway.
The last player remaining from 2006 Stanley Cup championship
Carolina Hurricanes fans have already been through 1 emotional round of will he stay or will he go with Eric Staal at the trade deadline. Despite the fact that his departure had been a distinct possibility for months and was not really a surprise, it was still a complete shock to the system for Canes fans who had watched him grow from being a gangly 18-year old kid to a man with a wife and children. Assuming that Eric Staal does not return this summer, that leaves Cam Ward as the last man standing from the 2006 Stanley Cup team. And it leaves only Cam Ward as a holdover from the most recent era in Canes history.
Rational evaluation of available goalies
Usually, hockey personnel decisions are driven largely by rational evaluations of players’ pros, cons, contract situations, statistics, etc. In that regard, I think Ward could stack up okay if he is willing to play for a 1A/1B type price ($2.5 – 3 million/year). I think there are better players out there, but many of them would require a trade to be acquired first and then there is the issue of salary and term. There is a rational argument that says for the right price and term, Ward is a reasonable option to hopefully build a bridge the reaches to when Alex Nedeljkovic could be ready. That especially becomes true if the potential expansion draft does not shake loose extra goalies from teams with 2. In such a scenario, the free agent market is incredibly thin with only James Reimer, Chad Johnson and Cam Ward as potential #1s in my mind.
But bigger picture…Is it just time to move on?
The poll questions in yesterday’s post did not ask for reason for not wanting Cam Ward to return. It could be that it is simply because there are better options available in the rational assessment angle. But from talking to enough Canes fans, I think there is also an element of just being ready to start a new era for many fans. The sample size is not statistically valid, but I had exactly that conversation with 3 different Hurricanes fans today.
I think that is where I stand at this point. Cam Ward has been a class act as a player and person in every regard over the past 10 years. He has earned his rightful place in Hurricanes history. But with the team getting younger and with a run of 7 consecutive playoff misses, I think it is time to turn the page and start a new chapter in Carolina Hurricanes history.
It will be interesting to see how Canes GM Ron Francis resolves this situation.