According to Hurricanes beat reporter Chip Alexander, the pending unrestricted free agent netminder prefers to stay with the team that drafted him 25th overall in 2002 but is likely to hit the open market on July 1.
Ward would join Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin, Carter Hutton, Robin Lehner and Jonathan Bernier as the most notable free-agent goalies this summer unless he signs a new contract with a Hurricanes team in the midst of a rebuild.
The 34-year-old Saskatoon native is coming off a two-year, $6.6-million contract. He went 23-14-4 with a .906 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average in 43 total appearances this past season.
“I think we need to make some changes,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell told NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman when asked how drastically his team’s roster needs to change this off-season. “We have some players that have been here a long time. We’ve gone nine years missing the playoffs. I think if there’s some change that needs to be made to change up the mix a little bit, the culture, we’re certainly going to look at that.
“We’re not in any desperate situation, it’s not a fire sale. If every player comes back, that’s perfect with us. But I think there’s also some opportunities and some players that maybe a fresh change and a fresh team might be good for them, and bring us some assets that we could use.”
Ward is the franchise leader in most major goalie categories including wins, saves, shutouts and total minutes played.
Carolina’s other goalie, Scott Darling, still has three years remaining on his deal with a $4.15-million annual salary cap hit.