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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Season in Review: Joel Ward

Joel Ward certainly started off the shortened season with a bang.

Well, as much of a bang as a team that was in the bottom of the conference as possible.

In the darkest hour of the Capitals season, it was Joel Ward who shined brightest.  In the opening month of January, Ward had four goals and two assists in seven games.  In February he had two more goals, but began to cool off greatly, going 16 straight games without a goal.  All and all, Ward finished off the season with eight goals and 12 assists, which is phenomenal for being primarily a third and fourth line player.

He is a rare type of player that can be utilized on both the power play and the penalty kill, averaging 1:55 minutes per game on the former and 1:15 on the later.  He definitely makes a difference day and day out in a similar way to Brooks Laich.

He was even great in the playoffs, tied for the team lead with four points.  That is ultimately what he is known for, stepping up in games that matter.  In his last season before he joined the Capitals in the 2011-2012 season, Ward had seven goals in 12 playoff games for the Nashville Predators and added six assists.

And this is why McPhee signed him, because of track record of high performances in playoff games, something that the Caps desperately need even to this day.

…Sigh

I hate what I’m about to type.  I really do.

The Capitals should buyout Joel Ward’s contract.  Here’s why.

At this point in the offseason, myself and many, many more notable hockey analysts have stressed the fact that each team has two amnesty buyouts to be used over the next two off seasons, so I’m not going to go into detail.  Take a quick look at the Capitals page on capgeek.  Look specifically at the forwards section.  Joel Ward is making $3 million over the next two seasons.  $3 million.  That is a lot for a guy that we primarily use as a third or fourth line player.

I hate to say it, but if you do a quick mental layout of performance versus contract, Joel’s is really the only one that stands out a lot.

To put that into comparison, Daniel Paille of Boston had 10 goals this year, and he’s making $1.3 million.  Matt Cooke in Pittsburgh had eight goals, he made $1.8 million.  Eric Fehr had nine goals, one more than Ward, and he just signed a pay raise in his latest contract for $1.5 million a year.  These are three players that play very similar roles for their team, but they are all half the price of Ward.

It’s not his fault.  How could you fault a guy for taking a big contract?  It is entirely McPhee’s fault.  Now, he has an opportunity for a quick fix on a past mistake, and he can write off Ward like it is nothing.

I want Ward on the team next year.  He is a prototypical grinder who can occasionally put the puck in the net.  He performs on the special teams units quite frequently.  What more could you ask from this guy?  I just wish his contract was in the $1.5 million range, even $2 million would be acceptable, then he would almost look like a steal.  But $3 million is just too much to be spending on a fourth line player.

But, he did kinda show this year that he may be worth $3 million.  In a shortened season, Ward had two more goals than he did all of last year.  In fact, if we took his numbers over a span of a full season, Ward may have been around the 20 goal range this season.

I’m just under the impression that no third or fourth line player in the NHL should be paid the sixth highest salary at the forward position on his team.  That just doesn’t make sense.

There are pros and cons for keeping Ward.  There are pros and cons for buying out Ward.  McPhee just has to weigh out each and every point.

But, looking back at Wards season, he had a great year.  As for his future in Washington, we are just going to have to wait and see.



Grade:  B+

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