Jacob Markstrom

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Cam Ward ready for backup role with Hurricanes

For the better part of the past 12 seasons Cam Ward has been a constant in the Carolina Hurricanes’ net. He is the longest tenured member of the team and a Stanley Cup champion.

This season, however, his hold on the starting job seems to have finally come to an end with the arrival of Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hurricanes acquired Darling’s free agent rights in a trade, then acted quickly to sign him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract.

That is not a commitment you make to a player that you intend to sit on the bench, and Ward knows this.

In an interview with the News & Observer this week Ward talked about his new role with the team and how he is willing and ready to accept it after being a starter for more than a decade.

From the News & Observer:

“I’m realistic,” Ward said in an interview at Raleigh Center Ice. “I understand the situation. I know he was brought in here to sign a four-year deal for pretty good money not to be a backup.

“I know where I am in my career. … Certainly I’m a competitive guy and I still want to be able to play and I’ll do whatever I can to earn that ice time, but I’m hopeful he can make that next step. He deserves that.”

The unfortunate reality for Ward is that it is a move the Hurricanes had to make.

Goaltending has been one of the single biggest issues plaguing the Hurricanes in recent seasons, and Ward has been the key player at that position. He has not finished a season with a save percentage higher than .910 since the 2011-12 season. In the five years since then his .907 save percentage is 43rd out of 47 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games, ahead of only Ondrej Pavelec, Ben Scrivens and Jacob Markstrom.

The Hurricanes have been assembling a talented, young roster in recent seasons and finally look like a team that is on the verge of becoming a player in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They have an outstanding young defense that has already made them one of the best shot suppression teams in the league, as well as some young high-end forward talent up front. The only ingredient that has been missing has been more consistent play in net.

The Hurricanes have also taken chances on backups Anton Khudobin and Eddie Lack over the years in the hopes they could push Ward and help solidify the position. None of them worked out.

Darling is the latest top backup that they have tabbed to be their solution in net. He has been one of the best backup goalies in the league in recent seasons and will be getting his shot to be a starter this season.

In signing with Anaheim, Ryan Miller chooses family and chance to win

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Ryan Miller was one of the busiest goalies in the NHL last season, when he routinely faced over 40 shots per game as the Vancouver Canucks’ starter.

But things should change considerably next season, after the 36-year-old signed with the Anaheim Ducks today.

Miller is well-aware that his role is going to be different, since the Ducks already have a starting goalie in John Gibson.

For Miller, though, the opportunity is two-fold. First and foremost, he’ll be closer to his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, and their young son. Second, he’ll get the chance to win something he’s never won.

“I really wanted to maximize my time and maximize my chances in winning a Stanley Cup,” Miller told reporters, per Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register.

The Canucks did want to keep Miller, who may have left money on the table in agreeing to a two-year, $4 million deal with Anaheim. Vancouver signed Anders Nilsson instead. Nilsson will compete for starts with Jacob Markstrom.

In Anaheim, it’s possible that Miller ends up playing more than a typical backup. After all, Gibson has had trouble staying healthy, and Miller did play well last year.

In fact, Miller was often Vancouver’s best hope for a win. He finished with three shutouts and a respectable .914 save percentage.

Report: Nilsson to sign with Canucks

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Yesterday, it was outlined at PHT the possibility of a new addition to Vancouver’s goalie group.

Ryan Miller appears destined to sign with Anaheim, while the Canucks reportedly had interest in 27-year-old netminder Anders Nilsson, who spent last season in Buffalo.

Teams have been able to speak with pending unrestricted free agents, but can’t sign them until tomorrow. However, it appears Nilsson will be joining the Canucks for next season, according to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.

Provided he does, indeed, sign in Vancouver, that would reunite Nilsson with current Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, who the organization is working to develop into their No. 1 goalie.

“Eventually,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning told The Province in May. “We’ve been grooming him the last couple of years to be at some point our No. 1 goalie, and I’ve been saying that for the last couple of years. I don’t know when that happens, but at some point that’s what our goal is.”

Nilsson appeared in 26 games for the Sabres last season, posting a 10-10-4 record and an impressive .923 save percentage.

The Canucks could be busy tomorrow. They’ve been linked to a few pending unrestricted free agents, including Nilsson, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov, Michael Del Zotto and now Alexander Burmistrov.

Related: Expect a busy July 1 in goalie news

Expect a busy July 1 in goalie news

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Some teams, like the Calgary Flames, have already addressed their goaltending vacancies.

But many others haven’t, so expect tomorrow (July 1) to be a busy day in that regard.

The Philadelphia Flyers are one team to watch. They reportedly won’t be bringing Steve Mason back, leaving some to predict the signing of Brian Elliott.

Elliott, of course, was the guy the Flames hoped could solve their problems in net. Alas, it didn’t work out, and GM Brad Treliving acquired Mike Smith and Eddie Lack instead.

The Winnipeg Jets are another team to watch. Last season, the Jets waived Ondrej Pavelec and went with a tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. Which didn’t go all that well. Pavelec’s contract is now done, but expect GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to try and land a veteran netminder to pair with Hellebuyck. The Jets have been linked to Mason, but also Elliott.

A number of other teams need backups. The Anaheim Ducks need one for John Gibson — quite likely Ryan Miller. Which brings us to the Vancouver Canucks, who’d then need a backup for Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks have been linked to Anders Nilsson.

Let’s move on to the defending champs, who don’t have have an obvious backup for Matt Murray after Marc-Andre Fleury was lost to Vegas. The Penguins would like to keep Tristan Jarry in the AHL a little while longer, which explains the speculation surrounding Antti Niemi.

The Colorado Avalanche: They lost Calvin Pickard to Vegas, opening a spot behind Semyon Varlamov. Perhaps Jonathan Bernier could fill that role?

The Buffalo Sabres: There’s been talk Chad Johnson could be on his way back. Would make sense if they don’t re-sign Nilsson.

The Boston Bruins: They’ve still got Anton Khudobin under contract for another year, but GM Don Sweeney may look for an upgrade behind Tuukka Rask.

The Toronto Maple Leafs: They could always re-sign Curtis McElhinney to back up Frederik Andersen, but GM Lou Lamoriello may try to do better.

Is Vancouver considering a Markstrom-Nilsson reunion in goal?

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With news that Ryan Miller is set to sign in Anaheim, the Canucks need a netminder to pair with Jacob Markstrom.

And a new report suggests they’re contemplating one of Markstrom’s old crease mates.

Per WGR 550, Vancouver has interest in soon-to-be Sabres UFA Anders Nilsson. Nilsson, 27, is coming off a pretty nice year in Buffalo, where he posted a .923 save percentage over 26 games (while making 23 starts).

Nilsson played last season on a one-year, $1 million deal, just like he did the season prior. But ’16-17 was by far his most successful campaign at the NHL level and, accordingly, he’s drawn interest from across the league.

As mentioned above, Nilsson is pretty familiar with Markstrom. They formed the one-two punch in goal for Sweden at the 2010 World Juniors — capturing bronze in the process — and have an awful lot in common. Both are 27. Their frames are eerily similar in that both are tall, physically imposing netminders — Markstrom is listed at 6-foot-6, 196 pounds while Nilsson is listed at 6-foot-6, 229 pounds.

The Canucks will likely want Markstrom to work in tandem with someone next season. Given his body of work, it’s fair to suggest they won’t hand him the keys to a No. 1 job. So if a timeshare is in the works, it makes sense to go with someone he has history with.

From the Nilsson perspective, Vancouver’s as good an opportunity as any right now. Available goalie spots are getting snapped up almost daily, and there are still several UFAs looking for work: Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, Darcy Kuemper and Ondrej Pavelec, specifically.