One of the biggest goalie stories heading into the preseason is from Carolina, where new head coach Bill Peters will watch Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward battle for the starting gig.
Peters said he’d like to have a clearcut No. 1 goalie, someone who could handle a 60-game workload. Ward and Khudobin, he said, have seven exhibition games to settle that issue before the Oct. 10 season-opener against the New York Islanders.
“Let them compete,” Peters said, in response to how the club will handle both goalies during the preseason. “Seven exhibition games — everyone’s going to play, everyone’s going to have an equal opportunity to show how good they are and how ready they are to start the year on time.”
While there’s always a possibility for change, it doesn’t sound like Carolina will utilize a two-man platoon system this year (Peters did say that, with just two home games for all of October, he’ll probably use both goalies during the opening month). Having a bell cow in goal will be something new for the ‘Canes; last season, the workload was shared among three guys (Khudobin, Ward and Justin Peters) much like it was during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, when Peters, Ward and Dan Ellis split the load.
In terms of being a 60-plus game guy, Ward definitely has the edge over Khudobin. He’s eclipsed that plateau five times in his career — including a league-high 74 games in 2010-11 — while Khudobin has never played more than 36, a career high he attained last season.
One final issue to consider in this goaltending battle? Salary. Ward has two years left on a deal that pays $6.3 million annually — the fifth-highest cap hit among all NHL goalies — and the optics around having a $6 million backup are, how should we say this, not so good.