Ward, 28, played 73 regular season games for Detroit in 2000-01 but sat out each game of the Red Wings’ six-game Western Conference Quarterfinal loss to Los Angeles. Ward registered four goals and five assists last season and finished his campaign with a minus-4 plus/minus ranking.
Ward’s right shot will replace the Hurricanes’ loss of defensemen Dave Karpa and Kevin Hatcher to free agency.
“He fills a vacancy in losing the two right-shot defensemen,” said Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford. “He can more than fill that spot because he’s a very good skater, he’s physical and he’s a younger player. We felt we would lose one of the two defensemen we lost, but we lost both so there was more urgency to fill that spot. We feel this is the best player available.”
Karpa signed a multi-year deal with the New York Rangers on July 1 while Hatcher has yet to sign a contract for 2001-02. Last season Karpa notched four goals and six assists in 80 regular season games and finished 2000-01 ranked second league-wide with 188 blocked shots. Hatcher accumulated just 18 points (4g, 14a) in 57 regular season contests in an injury plagued 2000-01 campaign. Hatcher’s 18 points were his fewest since 1985-86 when he scored 19 points in 79 games with Washington.
Ward played in 19 of 20 games during the Red Wings’ 1997 playoff run that ended with Detroit hoisting the Stanley Cup. During the Wings’ 1998 successful title defense Ward sat out all 22 post-season games despite having played in 52 regular season matches.
Despite being selected by Winnipeg with the fifth overall pick in the 1991 draft, Ward never played a game for the Jets organization. He was traded to Detroit on June 11, 1993 and played 276 games with the Red Wings in seven seasons. Ward split time between Detroit and the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League until joining Detroit full-time for the 1996-97 season.
With his name on the Stanley Cup twice, Ward adds quality playoff experience to a Hurricanes squad with few playoff seasoned veterans.
“His development process has come a long time,” said Rutherford. “He was a first-round pick out of Michigan. He’s been with the Red Wings a long time so, he’s gained a lot of experience playing within that organization.”
The trade was Carolina’s second this off-season and marks the team’s continued efforts toward replacing players lost during the first days of the free agent season. The Hurricanes made a draft-day deal with Colorado sending a fifth round pick to the Avalanche for left wing Chris Dingman.
Ward, a 6-foot-2-inch 225-pound Windsor, Ont. native is bigger, taller and younger than Karpa. Rutherford expects him to bring a good deal of physicality to the Hurricanes’ blue line.
“There’ll be more presence there,” said Rutherford. “He’s not bigger than Hatcher but he is bigger than Karpa. He certainly brings physical presence but not only presence – he can back it up.”
Ward, a Windsor, Ont. native played three years of collegiate hockey at the University of Michigan including the 1992-93 season with then-freshman, now-Hurricanes defenseman Steve Halko.
“I played one season with him at school,” said Halko. “He’s a good, solid defenseman, a good skater and a big hitter, too. He has good size and moves the puck very well.”
Rutherford said he has had his eye on Ward for three or four years.
“This is the first time that they said they would move him,” said Rutherford. “We’ve asked every year and they’ve always said they didn’t want to move him.”
Well, the time finally came. Aaron Ward is now a Carolina Hurricane.
Carolina Hurricanes Website Reporter Kyle S. Hanlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|AARON WARDCareer Statistics|
| ||REGULAR SEASON||PLAYOFFS|
|1990-91||U. of Mich.||CCHA||46||8||11||19||126||-||-||-||-||-|
|1991-92 ||U. of Mich.||CCHA||42||7||12||19||64||-||-||-||-||-|
|1992-93||U. of Mich.||CCHA||30||5||8||13||73||-||-||-||-||-|
|NHL CAREER TOTALS (7 SEASONS)||276||16||27||43||248||30||0||1||1||25|