Aaron Ward was on the seventh hole of a North Carolina golf course today when he got the call from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli that he’d been traded back to his old club, the Carolina Hurricanes, for forward Patrick Eaves, who was immediately placed on waivers, and a draft pick.
“I knew right off the bat,” said Ward, the steady 36-year-old defenseman. “It’s never good when your general manager calls you in the summer. He told me I was traded. I was pretty happy with the news that I’d get to go back to Carolina. He conveyed to me that he wasn’t going to trade me anywhere else but Carolina. It worked out well.”
While Ward reiterated his delight at returning to Raleigh (he lives in Cary, one town over), he acknowledged the disappointment of being traded from Boston. Ward had no idea he was on the market, and neither did Larry Kelly, his agent.
“This came as a complete surprise,” Ward said. “I was preparing myself to be with the Boston Bruins next season. You look at the picture as a whole, and it was a team that won the Eastern Conference and finished the highest it did in a long time. In your own evaluation, you think you’re a key component of that success. I had no thought process or inkling that I was moving on.”
Chiarelli spoke highly of Ward.
“He’s been a tremendous soldier here,” said Chiarelli. “He brought experience, size and strength, and a stabilizing presence to the defense. Frankly, I wouldn’t have traded him anywhere else but Carolina, because that’s where his home is. I do appreciate the time, service, and personality Aaron brought to the organization.”
Chiarelli said he will now seek a defenseman to add to his blue line. Chiarelli did not specify whether he will make a trade or sign a free agent to land defensive help.
By trading Ward the Bruins clear his $2.5 million salary, but weaken themselves on defense. So this is the first move, with the second being one of several possibilities:
- Signing a UFA defenseman (Mathieu Schneider and Sergei Zubov are still available) to provide a puck-moving element.
- Extending Phil Kessel with part of the money saved by trading Ward.
- Trading Kessel for an impact defenseman.
Eaves, 25, just completed his fourth pro season following a three-year college career at Boston College where he twice earned All-American and Hockey East All-Star honors (2004, 2005). Drafted by Ottawa as their first pick, 29th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, he played his first two-plus seasons in the Senators organization.
Eaves was due $3.1 million over the next two seasons. Because he is under 26, he can be bought out for one-third of his remaining salary. If Eaves goes unclaimed, the Bruins will carry his $258,333 buyout number in 2009-10, 2011-12, and 2012-13. Because he is on an escalating three-year contract, the Bruins will receive a $41,667 cap credit in 2010-11, the year Marc Savard hits UFA status and Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, and Tuukka Rask become RFAs.
Ward returns to the team with which he won a Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and where he still maintains his off-season home (he lives in nearby Cary). The Hurricanes were interested in signing Ward if he hit the open market last summer, but the Bruins re-signed him to a two-year, $5 million extension.
He was Zdeno Chara’s primary partner last season, serving as a stay-at-home defenseman and penalty killer. By being traded to Carolina, Ward will become a teammate of Scott Walker, the forward who dropped him with a punch late in Game 5.
“I’ll get him back in practice,” Ward joked. “Those are things that happen during the game. It’s water under the bridge. I’m on his team now.”