at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.

Hurricanes’ decision to extend Cam Ward is both unnecessary and an overpayment

The Carolina Hurricanes have announced the club has reached a two-year, $6.6 million deal with goaltender Cam Ward. Bob McKenzie reports the deal features a modified no-trade clause. The netminder was an unrestricted free agent.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise. Ward has long been on the decline and with his contract ending following the completion of the 2015-16 season, it finally appeared the Hurricanes were going to start fresh at the position. The move suggests Carolina might not realize how bad Ward was this season.

Ward cemented himself as an all-time great Hurricane after leading the club to a Stanley Cup victory in 2006 winning the Conn Smythe as the team’s playoff MVP. It was an amazing run and propelled Ward into stardom. He followed the Cup victory with three straight 30-win seasons. Over the past four seasons, Ward’s play has significantly declined. Battling injuries and struggles on the ice, Ward has posted below league average save percentage since 2013. He’s been both hurt and bad.

In 2015-16, with Eddie Lack imploding as the starter, Ward was forced into 52 games and didn’t impress. Despite being behind a defensively efficient Hurricanes team and facing just 26.23 shots against per game at even strength, Ward only posted a .918 even-strength save percentage, well below league average. The marker ranked 40th among goalies who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes, behind Kari Ramo, Ondrej Pavelec and Scott Darling.

Ward has been below replacement level for some time, so the Hurricanes didn’t need to rush to give him a new deal.

The contract is both unnecessary and an overpayment. General manager Ron Francis is paying Ward massive money based off of loyalty. Ward won the Stanley Cup more than 10 years ago and has been rewarded enough since then. He’s not a viable starting goalie at this point and perhaps not even a viable backup. Giving him more than $6 million over two seasons is absurd.

Why would Francis reach so deep into his wallet to retain Ward? The move might have been made for a couple reasons. First, the Hurricanes need to reach the cap floor and without any big unrestricted free agents or restricted free agents (outside Ryan Murphy), there’s money to be spent. The money could have been spent better elsewhere, but Carolina needs to add contracts. The other reason for the signing that’s been speculated online is the contract might be bait for the upcoming NHL expansion draft. Francis might have signed a two-year deal so Ward can be exposed when the draft is held since the Hurricanes will only be able to protect one goalie. Personally, that angle doesn’t make much sense to me. Preparing for an expansion draft now, when the details are still fairly murky, is a strange thing to do.

Ward doesn’t deserve the contract and the Hurricanes are being far too loyal to him with the move. Carolina’s goaltending prevented a good team from being a playoff contender this season. They needed to move on from Ward (and Lack) and start fresh at the position. Re-signing Ward to a term with multiple years just doesn’t make sense. It’s not a crippling move, but one that could cost them a few wins next season.

About Liam McGuire

Social +Staff writer for The Comeback & Awful Announcing.