Ward struggled with a groin injury last year and had perhaps his worst season since he became Carolina's starting goalie in 2006-07, posting a 3.06 goals-against-average and .898 save percentage. The only worse GAA of his career was during his rookie season of 2005-06, but Ward still backstopped the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process.
Ward was the subject of trade rumors during this offseason, with Carolina ultimately electing to keep him. He said he spent the summer getting in better shape by improving his nutrition and increasing his weight training, which Francis said was necessary for Ward to return to his previous level of play.
“It was an important summer in my career,” Ward said. “These last couple of years haven’t gone the way I expected of myself. I feel like that’s behind me and you move forward. I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself to play with confidence.”
Anton Khubodin filled in for Ward last season and finished fourth in the NHL with a .926 save percentage.
The Hurricanes, who had 83 points last season, missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Head coach Kirk Muller was fired and replaced by former Detroit Red Wings assistant Bill Peters.
Carolina opens the 2014 season Oct. 10 against the New York Islanders.
- Ben Estes