Cam Ward has been the starting goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes since he led them to a Stanley Cup in 2006. However, this season he’ll have to adjust to a new role as backup to newly acquired Scott Darling.
But Ward isn’t bitter about the expected reduced role with the only team he’s ever known.
“I’m realistic,” Ward said in an interview with Chip Alexander of The News & Observer. “I understand the situation. I know (Darling) was brought in here to sign a four-year deal for pretty good money not to be a backup.”
Ward, 33, has seen his numbers slowly decline for the past couple seasons. Last season he posted a 26-22-12 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage, his lowest totals since 2013-14.
On top of that, the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs once since the Cup run, reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.
Darling, five years Ward’s junior, came over in a trade after a solid turn as Corey Crawford’s backup in Chicago and the Hurricanes immediately signed him to a four-year, $16.6-million contract.
Ward is aware his play hasn’t been where it’s needed to be lately and he’s excited for Darling to get a chance to be the starter this season.
“I thought it was a great move,” Ward said. “I know where I am in my career.
“Certainly I’m a competitive guy and I still want to be able to play and I’ll do whatever I can to earn that ice time, but I’m hopeful he can make that next step. He deserves that.”
Ward is entering the final season of a two-year contract he signed in June 2016. He holds all the major goaltending records in franchise history, including games played (625), wins (295) and shutouts (25).
While he knows that this could be his final season in Carolina, he’s looking to make the most of it. Even if that means being a mentor to his replacement.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be here as long as I have and to be a No. 1 guy for over a decade, so I think I have something to offer to him,” Ward said. “I think I can offer him my experience and give him the support he needs to make that next step.
“I’m getting toward the end,” he added. “I hate to say that but it’s realistic. I’m not in the first-half of my career. I’m in the second half.”