Photo credit: John Russell
On Friday, the first day of free agency, the Capitals surprised many as busiest team in the NHL. Dumping Semyon Varlamov to Colorado, they then signed five players, including three bound for Washington’s NHL roster. The biggest wild card of the bunch? Thirty-year old right wing Joel Ward, who was given a four year $12 million deal.
“It’s going to be fun to make a new batch of friends and join a new family, start bonding right away,” Ward said of joining the star-laden Caps. “Obviously you see them on the highlight reel every night.”
After scoring only 10 goals in the regular season — his worst output in three full seasons in the NHL — Ward broke out in the playoffs, tallying seven goals in 12 games for the Nashville Predators. Every loose puck in front of the net found him. And virtually everything he shot went in. For like the Caps, whose struggles in the playoffs are all too well known, this is certainly welcome news.
“I love playoff hockey and I think it’s such a fun time of year and anytime you know you’re going to make playoffs every year and be consistent at it and have a good shot to win the Stanley Cup it’s a good feeling and that’s one of the things I was looking forward to,” Ward told members of the media on a conference call Saturday. “I think everyone thrives on it and you want to try to hoist the Stanley Cup and that’s something I’m going to try to do and hopefully bring that to DC.”
A noted defensive stand-out, Ward was among the Preds’ leaders in blocked shots, hits and takeaways last season and the Ontario native hopes he can provide the Caps not only with points in the playoffs but some of that versatility.
“I just try to play at all different areas of the game — 5-on-5, 4-on-4, whatever the case may be,” he said. “Killing penalties, blocking shots or the power play. I just want to be on the ice and help my team win. You just got to be able to be on the ice in all situations and that’s what I kind of thrive on.”
Oh, and Ward even has his own History Will Be Made commercial.
Additional Reporting by Ian Oland.