A top priority for Hurricanes GM Ron Francis is to get the salary of Cam Ward off the Hurricanes books. Ward who carries a $6.3 million cap hit, has $13.5 million left on his contract over the next two years.
There is lots of talk in league circles that the Hurricanes are willing to take on around $4-$5 million of the remaining $13.5 million to facilitate a trade as the Hurricanes would still get a net savings of over $8 million. Ward is due $6.7 million in 2014-2015 and $6.8 million in 2015-2016.
One NHL source says Flames President Brian Burke loves Ward and adding a veteran goaltender is still important for a rebuilding team, but Ward has a no trade clause which could complicate things there.
Ward, 30, went 10-12-6 with a 3.06 GAA and .898 save percentage in 2013-2014. He’s been a goalie trending down the last couple seasons from a performance and health standpoint.
In the lockout shortened 2013 season, Ward appeared in just 16 games, going 9-6-1 with a 2.84 GAA and .908 save percentage.
Former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford did not do a good job of building his blueline the last several seasons but Ward’s save percentage the past two years has been concerning. Anton Khudobin, though, played behind the same blueline and posted a .926 save percentage in 36 games last season.
Rutherford got burned in Carolina due to his goaltending situation, notably Ward’s play and struggles to stay healthy the last couple years, however, some still wonder if he’d be tempted to gamble on Ward if the Hurricanes were to pickup some of Ward’s salary, although Rutherford is at least said to be on board to keeping Fleury, unlike two other notable GM candidates who were finalists for the job in Pierre McGuire and Julien BriseBois. Both expressed strong feelings to Penguins brass that a goaltending change was needed in Pittsburgh, sources say.
Fleury’s future was strongly linked to to which GM got the job but what McGuire and others felt doesn’t really matter now.
Fleury > Ward?
If the Hurricanes were to lets say pick up $5 million ($2.5 million per season) of the remaining $13.5 million on Ward’s contract, would it be a step backwards or forward for the Penguins to have Ward for the next two seasons with a $3.8 million cap hit or stick with Fleury who has one year remaining on his deal with a $5 million cap hit, $5.75 million salary, and is looking for a long-term deal?
I’m far from a Fleury supporter and I believe the Penguins need to make a change in goal, but my initial thoughts were it would still be a step backwards, even with a cap savings of at least $1 million.
However, the more I weigh the possibility and potential trade return for Fleury (wouldn’t be a great return tho), Ward at a decreased cap hit in the range under the belief among executives the Hurricanes are willing to pick up $4-$5 million of his salary, I’m slightly leaning into Ward’s direction for the sake of making a change.
Nobody can ever take away the fact that Marc Andre Fleury won a Stanley Cup, but this is still a goaltender who has won just TWO playoff series since 2010 post-season and has an .891 save percentage in his last 44 post-season games.
— As of Monday the Penguins had yet to make it known to interested teams that they are open to trading James Neal, multiple sources said, though, the expectation is that will come at somepoint later this week or next week after the Penguins conduct some of their pro scouting meetings which are starting much later than normal due to the GM change.

Add the Ottawa Senators to a group of teams that have let the Penguins know to keep them in mind if Neal becomes available. Ottawa is actively trying to move Jason Spezza, who has requested a trade, and it’s likely they try to move assets they receive for Spezza for a top-6 forward and Neal is a player we hear they intend to look into.
Dan Bylsma is a finalist for the Florida Panthers job and it’s believed a decision will be coming down to Bylsma and Gerard Gallant, not Ron Wilson and Bylsma. An NHL source says Bylsma is prepared to take much less than the money he’s owed from the Pittsburgh Penguins the next two seasons, believed to be around $2.3 million per season. “He just wants to coach,” the source said. If the Panthers go for the cheaper candidate in Gerard Gallant, it won’t be because Bylsma demanded too much money.
— TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported today that Ales Hemsky rejected a three year offer from the Senators worth about $10 million. McKenzie reports the Senators will try to move his rights for a draft pick. Penguins ownership strongly pushed for Hemsky this past season leading into deadline day and were furious when Shero failed to meet the Oilers asking price. The two sides, though, look like a tough match due to the Penguins cap situation this summer.