Cam Ward’s in the final year of his contract with the Carolina Hurricanes and his long-term future with the team is in question. So to is his short-term ability to suit up for the Hurricanes, though, as Ward has been diagnosed with a concussion.
The Hurricanes announced Wednesday that Ward has been placed on injured reserve and there’s no announced timeline for his return to the lineup. With Ward out, the Hurricanes have called up goaltender Daniel Altshuller from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, but the net in Carolina will belong to Eddie Lack with Ward on the shelf.
For most of the season, Ward has been the Hurricanes’ starter, but that’s been in large part because Lack has been unable to challenge for the top job. Ward, 31, has posted a pedestrian 14-11-5 record, 2.42 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. But Lack, 28, has been more disappointing in his first season in Carolina. Acquired in the off-season from Vancouver, Lack has made 18 appearances this season, posting a 6-8-3 record, 2.97 GAA and .891 SP.
Though his numbers thus far have been ugly, Lack possesses the ability to be a serviceable starter in the league. Lack is coming off of a season with the Canucks in which he went 18-13-4 with two shutouts, 2.45 GAA and .921 SP. He pushed Vancouver goaltender Ryan Miller for the starting and earned four starts in the post-season thanks to his stellar campaign.
Lack was one season away from free agency, however, and the Canucks chose to ship him to Carolina in exchange for draft picks. Shortly after being acquired, Lack was signed to a two-year, $5.5-million extension.
If Ward is out for an extended period of time, it’s likely that Altshuller will get a look in the Carolina crease. A 2012 third round pick, 69th overall, of the Hurricanes, Altshuller played most of his 2014-15 campaign with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, but has been incredibly impressive in the AHL this past season. In 11 games, he’s 9-1-1 with a 1.71 GAA, .941 SP and one shutout.
The most unfortunate thing about Carolina’s goaltending situation — with or without Ward — is that if they had gotten average netminding this season the team would likely be in the post-season race. The Hurricanes are one of the best possession teams in the league and have been stellar at 5-on-5, but they have a .913 SP at 5-on-5, which ranks 29th in the league.