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Joel Ward signs three-year contract with Sharks

by David Satriano

Free agent forward Joel Ward signed a three-year contract with the San Jose Sharks on Friday.

"Originally when the season ended, my first thought was to maybe head back [to the Washington Capitals]," Ward said, "and just kind of more and more into the summer and free agency period, it just seemed unlikely.

"So I knew that was a possibility, and when I got a chance to talk to [Sharks coach Peter [DeBoer], that really helped me sway of being in a good situation."

The Capitals signed forward Justin Williams on Wednesday and traded for forward T.J. Oshie on Thursday, making Ward expendable.

His contract is worth $9.75 million, an average annual value of $3.25 million, according to Sportsnet.

"It was a group that wanted me and it's always good to feel loved," Ward said. "I embraced it, I loved it, and I thought it was a great opportunity."

Ward, 34, spent four seasons with the Capitals and had 19 goals and 34 points in 82 games last season, and nine points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games. In eight NHL seasons, Ward had 97 goals, 220 points and 183 penalty minutes in 517 games.

"I've always loved San Jose," Ward said. "Even free agency a couple of years back, it was a possibility. I love the Shark Tank. Coming in there, it's always a good environment. To be part of it now is unbelievable, and I just want to win a lot of hockey games, and I think we are going to be able to do so."

DeBoer, who was hired by the Sharks on May 28, did his part recruiting Ward.

"I've known Joel since I coached Junior against him about 10-15 years ago," DeBoer said. "I admired how he played from afar. I did have a couple of conversations with him about where I felt he would fit and how important I thought what he brought to the table was for our group here in San Jose."

Ward can play up and down the lineup and on special teams.

"Joel Ward is a class act, a great teammate," DeBoer said. "This guy is a jack-of-all-trades. When I had him at the World Championships, he could play on your first line, he can play on your third line, he can kill penalties, he can play on the power play. He goes to the blue paint, he scores in the dirty areas."

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was hopeful Ward would sign, although he was aware the forward had offers from other teams.

"We are extremely excited that he joined and chose us," Wilson said. "There was a group of teams that were all over Joel. He had some tough decisions to make in the negotiations."

The Sharks, who missed the playoffs last season, made the postseason the previous nine years. In addition to Ward, they this week signed free agent defenseman Paul Martin and traded for goalie Martin Jones.

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