In a busy day for Hurricanes hockey news, the team signed Sebastian Aho to his 3-year entry-level deal. I recently wrote about the need for patience with him,
The Canes also signed Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela who was profiled in ‘The Pipeline’ by Patrick Clarke shortly after he was obtained from the New York Rangers in the Eric Staal trade.
Last week’s media availability for Ron Francis seemed to crack the door way open for a possible return of Cam Ward. The quote was cryptic and committed to nothing, but it did at least suggest Ward was in the mix. You can find Ron Francis comments HERE.
Previous discussion of possible a Cam Ward return
The reader poll in this post suggested that the Hurricanes faithful were also ready to move forward. 45% voted to move forward because there were better options available. 30% voted to move forward simply because it was time. Only 24% voted to re-sign Ward because he was the best option available.
A quick Twitter poll last week shortly after Francis’ press conference similarly leaned toward moving forward without Ward. The Twitter poll asked for “Thoughts on possibility of Canes re-signing Cam Ward” with 24% voting for “I like it”, 49% percent saying, “Only for 1-year stopgap,” and 27% saying “under no circumstances.”
What I think Ron Francis is really doing
If you take Ron Francis’ quote at face value, it suggests that at a minimum, Cam Ward is under consideration for the Hurricanes second goaltending slot for 2016-17. And that is the story that the local media and other Hurricanes bloggers wrote.
But here is the thing. When was the last time Ron Francis let on to the media or anyone for that matter anything about what he was planning to do? Both of the Eddie Lack and James Wisniewski trades last summer came out of nowhere. That is especially interesting for the Lack deal because there was no mention anywhere about Francis looking to make a change in net. The Kris Versteeg trade also fell out of thin air. And even in the case of the Eric Staal trade that seemed imminent, things were pretty quiet until the deal actually happened.
So is it possible that Francis was just suddenly a bit looser with this situation? It is possible, and it is not as if Francis spilled some kind of information that would hurt him.
But we have seen 2 years of incredibly consistent hush from Francis in terms of tipping his hat. The more reasonable answer based on history is that these comments on Cam Ward were not Francis changing course and being more open. Rather, I think what we are seeing is Ron Francis making a move to establish the greatest possible negotiating leverage in advance of a busy next couple weeks trying to land the best goalie possible while paying as little as possible.
The best options available are trade options which will require another GM to do a deal. Establishing that he is content to bring Ward back if the market gets too pricey will put Francis in a better place
So is Cam Ward truly in the mix?
My hunch is that he probably is but only as a fallback/plan B. I do not see Francis abandoning his top priority of stocking the system with more and better prospects in the aim of winning a crazy bidding war to add his second goalie. If he and his team make a list of 2-3 goalies who they really like, but a reasonable deal cannot be had for any of them, I think Ward could be a short-term plan B.