If you thought his name was bandied about in trade rumours last season, just wait.
When the puck drops on the 2015-16 season, Carolina Hurricanes starter Cam Ward will be entering the sixth and final year of a contract that carries a $6.3 million salary cap hit. (Fun fact: Ward’s actual salary this season, $6.8 million, will be his juiciest ever.)
And with the Hurricanes, who finished 26th overall in 2014-15, projected to be a lottery team again, Ward will become the subject of trade speculation if an extension isn’t reached this fall.
Ward wants to re-up with the only NHL team he’s ever played for, the one he backstopped to a Stanley Cup in 2006.
“Obviously, it’s no secret I love being here and there’s nowhere else I want to be,” the 31-year-old goaltender told Chip Alexander of the The News & Observer Thursday after an informal skate.
“In a perfect world I’d like to have something done, but there’s no pressure,” Ward added. “I’ve just got to prepare myself for a great year, not just for myself but for the team. It’s team first. We want to be ready.”
Complicating matters is the addition of younger, cheaper Eddie Lack — a fan favourite in Vancouver and a backup who took over injured Ryan Miller’s starting role admirably last spring.
“I’m sure he’s going to challenge Cam Ward for the No. 1 job,” Canucks veteran Alex Burrows told Sportsnet this summer.
“Eddie is a really fun, easygoing guy, carefree in a quality way, because the pressure doesn’t really get to him. Big games don’t get to him. He just goes out, works hard and competes and does his best.”
Lack is also an impending unrestricted free agent and should command a salary raise from his current $1.15-million cap hit.
That said, well-regarded No. 2 Anton Khudobin was previously brought in to challenge Ward, only to be outdueled by the veteran.
Behind a marginal defence, Ward posted a career-best 2.40 goals-against average and respectable .910 save percentage in 2014-15. Khudobin was shipped to Anaheim at the draft for defenceman James Wisniewski.
So, what does Ward think of Lack?
“From what I understand he’s a great guy and obviously will push [me] and vice versa,” Ward told Alexander. “It will be a similar situation to last year. Nothing is given to me. You’ve got to go out there and earn your ice time and right to play.”