Carolina Hurricanes: The Case for Cam Ward

Jan 4, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward (30) follows the play against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward (30) follows the play against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward hasn’t really been a fan favorite for many years. In all honesty I was once the loudest and most obnoxious “Cam Ward sucks” person you could ever meet. That ends now.

I come before you today, Dear Caniacs, to repent my former sins against Mr. Cam Ward and ask for his forgiveness. At the time I was taking my frustrations over weak team performances out on him, and exaggerating any bad games he had into the main reason the Hurricanes weren’t contending.

Over those many seasons I just hadn’t taken the time to look at his numbers more closely. Now, as a writer covering the Hurricanes, I am here to make the case to General Manager Ron Francis that he should re-sign Cam Ward as a Carolina Hurricane when his contract is up this week.

We won’t delve into the history of Ward’s early successes, his long and lucrative contract, and the struggles he and this team have endured for many years. Even the most casual fan of the Carolina Hurricanes can recite most of it, so it doesn’t need to take up space here. Suffice it to say that there were many things that fed into the Canes lack of success, not just Ward’s performance.

The case will be laid out in three parts. First will be a very quick look at Cam’s statistics over the last decade. Second, I will show that Cam is not overpaid, as is often argued by his detractors, and that his statistics are not that out of whack with the highest paid goalies in the NHL. And finally, the case will be made that the goalies available through free agency don’t bring as much to the table for the Carolina Hurricanes as Cam does.

Cam Ward, Goalie, 2007-2016:

For those that don’t follow hockey very closely, this chart shows three sets of statistics in three categories for each season since 2007. The statistics are the shots that he faced (Sh), the goals that were scored (GA) and his save percentage (SV%). Good goalies have save percentages above .900 over consecutive seasons.

Ward has had a save percentage over that magic number in every season since 2007, and his average save percentage is a strong 92%. When the Hurricanes are on the power play his numbers are very good as well, with seven of the nine seasons well into the .900’s. Ward is far from the disastrous goalie that many of his naysayers would have you believe.

Cam Ward, NHL Top Ten Goalie Paycheck:

We all know the names of the top paid goalies in the NHL, and for the most part their statistics and performances match their paychecks. Lundqvist, Bobrovsky, Rask, Rinne and Crawford are well known names and have salaries ranging from $6 mil to $8.5 mil, with Cam Ward sitting at the lower end of that scale at $6.3 million.

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We’ve heard from fans and pundits for years that Cam Ward is an overpaid under-achiever. They are wrong.

The fact is that he has never been blessed with the kind of offensive power that Ben Bishop or Braden Holtby have been, or the defensive strength that Corey Crawford and Tuuka Rask have enjoyed. When Cam had a rough game he didn’t have a Duncan Keith-led defensive corps to save his ass. And he sure as hell didn’t have a Stamkos or Ovechkin putting pucks in the net at the other end.

With all that being said, Cam’s numbers this season are not anywhere out-of-whack with the other goalies in the rarefied air of the top ten paychecks. Here is a chart, courtesy of, that has the highest paid netminders, sorted by save percentage.

Top Ten Paid Goalies SV%
Top Ten Paid Goalies SV% /

Cam Ward Replacement Options:

There will be some rather attractive goalies on the free agent market this season. Some will be re-signed by their current teams while others will hit the open market looking for a new home and bigger paycheck. I will focus on the five that I think would be contenders for Cam’s roster spot with the Canes, and then explain why they shouldn’t replace him.

James Reimer – San Jose Sharks – current salary $2.3 million.
Since getting out of the toxic hockey world that is Toronto, Reimer has really stood out as the Sharks netminder, and has them trending very well into the post season. When he hits the market later this summer he should be in line for a pretty good raise, probably north of $4 million per year.

Anton Khudobin – Anaheim Ducks – current salary $2.25 million
Anton is a deal at $2.25 million with a career save percentage over .900, and strong numbers in his limited play with the Hurricanes. His experience with the team and the locker room could be a good selling point too.

Jhonas Enroth – Los Angeles Kings – current salary $1.25 million
He’d be good for the bottomline, with an economical cap hit even if he gets a good raise from his current salary. He hasn’t played many games this season, but when he has he’s been very good.

Petr Mrazek – Detroit Red Wings – current salary $737,000 – Restricted Free Agent
It will be a surprise if the Red Wings let him go when their season is over. Since stepping in to Jimmy Howard’s shoes a short time ago he has put up very strong numbers, and has the Wings on the brink of heading to the post season again. If he does hit the open market he will be the best bargain out there considering where his paycheck is now.

Jonas Gustavsson – Boston Bruins – current salary $700,000
In much the same position as Mrazek, Gustavsson may be the odd man out in Boston with Tuuka Rask between the pipes, and may want to try a team where he can play more often. Also like Mrazek his current cap hit makes him a very economical choice.

And another chart courtesy of

Top 5 Choices Free Agency Goalies SV%
Top 5 Choices Free Agency Goalies SV% /

Any one of these goaltenders would make a fine addition to a team that was in search of a good starting goalie. However, as was pointed out above, the Canes already have a starting goaltender with good career statistics, and his name is Cam Ward. Only two on the list above, Reimer and Mrazek, have better numbers than Ward, have played more than 30 games this season, and could be argued as good choices for the Canes.

There are also a couple of intangibles that need to be considered. First, the Hurricanes are finally starting to play like a cohesive team. Coach Peters has got everyone playing from the same book and every player seems to feel like part of a team working together. Trying to replace a longtime ‘family member’ with a new guy simply because he’s cheaper could easily upset that delicate balance.

Related Story: Five reasons the Hurricanes will contend next season.

The second intangible is a need for some experienced voices and seasoned leadership in the Canes locker room as they continue to build on the successes of this season. This team is filled with bright-eyed young men who have yet to live through the amazing highs of a deep playoff run, and the incredible lows of a long losing streak. Cam is pretty much the only member of the team who can explain what that is like, and he can do it from the perspective of a Carolina Hurricane. That’s the kind of value you can’t get from a statistics chart.

There are, of course, other options for Ron Francis to choose from. He could go with Eddie Lack as the starter and bring in a young prospect to back him up. He could keep both and let Eddie and Cam platoon in net and fight for the #1 position. Or he could go ahead and spend some of the cap space cash on one of the free agents and roll the dice.

More hurricanes: Some goaltending options for the Canes next season.

This former leader of the “Cam Ward sucks” brigade has now seen the light. The best option for Ron Francis is to re-sign Cam Ward to a new contract, let him continue to put up the good numbers he has for many seasons, and watch him foster the next generation of Carolina Hurricanes players as an NHL veteran should.