Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game One

Joel Ward’s road to Washington is one built on hard work and hardship

Washington Capitals fans are going to get to know Joel Ward pretty well starting this season after signing with the Caps on a four-year, $12 million deal in the offseason. Ward spent the last three seasons being a full-time player with the Nashville Predators as a grind line guy. Ward was able to make a big impression on the Preds and the rest of the world in the playoffs last season scoring seven goals and six assists in the Predators’ 12 games in the postseason.

Ward’s breakout in the playoffs came on the heels of a regular season that saw him have a comparatively off season scoring just ten goals and adding 19 assists for a career low 29 points. After getting his start in Minnesota with the Wild and being given up on there, getting to become a playoff phenom as a grind line guy showed what Ward has always been all about.

CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley gets the story of Joel Ward that shows that bouncing back from hardship is nothing new for the 31 year-old Scarborough, Ontario native. From having his father suffer a stroke during a youth hockey game when he was 14 years-old, one which claimed his life days later to being raised by his mom who worked two jobs, getting to this point shows how hard of a road it can be to make it to the NHL and the sacrifices of family are often part of the process.

With the financial and emotional support of his mother, who worked at two hospitals and still found time to drive him to practices, Ward developed into a prospect and, three years after his father’s death, earned a spot with the Owen Sound Platers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Ward spent four years in Owen Sound but when no NHL team showed interest in him at the NHL draft or through free agency, he enrolled at the University of Prince Edward Island, where he played four seasons and earned a degree in Sociology.

Ward figured that if he didn’t make it in hockey, he’d teach in an elementary school. Determined to put his teaching career on hold, Ward signed with a professional roller hockey team in Florida, which led to a tryout with an East Coast Hockey League team, which in turn led to an invitation to the Minnesota Wild’s training camp in 2005.

Two years later Ward made his NHL debut and despite a third full season in the AHL, he became an NHL regular with the Nashville Predators at the age of 28.

Ward made his NHL debut in the 2006-2007 season with Minnesota but didn’t really make a name for himself until his first season with the Predators in 2008-2009 where he recorded career-high 17 goals as well as 35 points.

Now he gets the chance to be part of a team that’s at or near the top of many lists as the Stanley Cup favorites this season. Getting to play on the same team as Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and now Tomas Vokoun if Ward can bring the kind of game he showed in the playoffs last season and able to apply it all year long, he could help the Caps be the missing piece to their Stanley Cup dreams. One thing’s for sure, you can’t count out Joel Ward to work as hard as possible to try and make it happen.

Hurricanes extend contract of head coach Bill Peters

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The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.

Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.

“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”

The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)

Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.

Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing

Report: Caps draftee DiPauli heading to free agency

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23:  Thomas Dipauli, 100th overall pick, walks on the draft floor during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Just like Jimmy Vesey, Thomas DiPauli appears ready to test the open market.

DiPauli, a Notre Dame forward taken 100th overall by Washington at the 2012 draft, will reportedly hold out past the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Caps and head to unrestricted free agency, per ESPN.

A 22-year-old that’s spent the last four years playing for the Fighting Irish, DiPauli scored 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games last year, finishing as the team’s offensive MVP while earning honorable mention Hockey East All-Star honors.

DiPauli was a notable absence at Washington’s recent prospect development camp. More on that, per CSN Mid Atlantic:

[DiPauli] has attended previous Caps development camps, so the club decided not to invite him this summer.

According to a team spokesman the Caps remain interested in signing DiPauli by the NHL’s Aug. 15 deadline.   

ESPN corroborated DiPauli’s interest in signing with the Caps, but it’s not surprising to hear he’s looking for opportunities with another organization.

Washington is fairly loaded at forward, and still has a handful of young prospects in the system — including ’14 first-rounder Jakub Vrana, recent Boston College signee Zach Sanford and 24-year-old Russian winger Stanislav Galiev, who was stuck in healthy scratch limbo for long stretches this season as the club didn’t want to lose him on waivers.

As mentioned above, DiPauli could play the open market like Vesey plans to later next month.

Though Buffalo traded to acquire his rights from Nashville, the reigning Hobey Baker winner has a shortlist of other teams he’s interested in signing with.

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.