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Cam Ward Re-Signs with Hurricanes: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2016

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward  plays against the Minnesota Wild in the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

Goalie Cam Ward will return for a 12th season with the Carolina Hurricanes, as he signed a two-year, $6.6 million contract with the organization Thursday.

The Canes announced the move on their official website, and general manager Ron Francis commented on the re-signing: "Cam has been a major face of the Hurricanes both on the ice and in our community for more than a decade. We are happy he has chosen to continue his career in Carolina."

Ward will make $3.5 million in 2016-17 and $3.1 million in 2017-18 for an annual cap hit of $3.3 million.

The 32-year-old netminder has been a stalwart in Carolina's crease since shocking the hockey world during the 2005-06 playoffs as a rookie.

Ward led the Canes to the first and only Stanley Cup victory in franchise history that season, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the process.

While Ward had some positive moments since then, including an All-Star appearance in 2011, his form has largely declined.

With career marks of a 2.70 goals-against average and .910 save percentage, the Canadian backstop has essentially been an average goalie despite getting paid like an elite one for six seasons with the Hurricanes.

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He went 23-17-10 last season with a GAA of 2.41 and a save percentage of .909. Although the numbers weren't impressive as a whole, he was at his best down the stretch, and Francis praised him, according to Michael Smith of the team's official website:

I think we'll make a decision fairly soon in that regard. When we look at Cam, part of my job is making sure I go through the meetings with my pro [scouting] guys and assessing what's out there in the free agent market and then talking to all the other GMs to see which goaltenders may or may not be available and for the ones that are, what the price is. As I sit here today, do I want to give up a first-round pick for a goaltender that may have a year or two left on his deal and then we lose him, an older guy? Not really the plan I'm looking for. Cam takes a lot of criticism, but Cam from December to the end of the year was one of the top five goaltenders in the league in goals-against and save percentage. I think there's some merit to revisiting that as we move forward.

Following Francis' comments, Chip Alexander of the News & Observer was under the impression that a return to Carolina may have been in the cards for Ward:

Chip Alexander @ice_chip

Ron Francis says decision on Cam Ward should come soon. Reading between lines, sounds like Ward may be re-signed.

After acquiring Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks for two draft picks last offseason, he was expected to become the Hurricanes' starting goaltender.

Instead, the 28-year-old Swede struggled to the tune of a 12-14-6 record with a 2.81 GAA and .901 save percentage.

That resulted in Ward getting the bulk of the starts in between the pipes, and it left the Canes to consider bringing him back for a 12th season.

Ward may not necessarily be the best option as a workhorse goaltender at this juncture of his career, but he showed some flashes in the latter portion of the 2015-16 campaign and could be a high-value signing.

It was tough for Canes fans to praise his uneven showings when he was making in excess of $6 million per season, but at his new, reduced salary, Ward has an opportunity to outperform his contract and lead a Hurricanes team that appears to be on the rise.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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