Seriously, NHL teams! Stop it already!
Yesterday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they signed goaltender Cam Ward to a one-day contract so that he can retire as a member of the Hurricanes. I’ve always been irritated when teams do this; it’s trite and stinks of an NHL club wanting a photo op — and maybe to smooth things out a bit with jilted fans. It is time for the NHL to put an end to the one-day contracts.
There is something hypocritical about a team getting rid of a player because he is no longer good enough or doesn’t fit in with the team’s plan for some reason, but then later signing him to a one-day deal so they can officially retire…as a member of the team that got rid of him.
The latest recipient of a one-day contract, Ward played 13 seasons with the Hurricanes. He had a memorable rookie year, when he led the team to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He is the team’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and saves.
During the 2017-18 season — his last with the ‘Canes — he started 42 games and put up decent numbers. But with Scott Darling on the roster and looking to overtake the starting goalie job, Ward became expendable. Maybe Ward didn’t want to be a backup and thought he’d get in more games on the Blackhawks, considering that Corey Crawford keeps getting hurt. Or maybe he just wanted to play one more year — anywhere. Had he stayed in Carolina, though, Ward probably would have gotten most of the starts anyway, due to Darling’s injuries.
No matter the reason, the Hurricanes weren’t all that eager to keep Ward around, which is why I can only roll my eyes when ‘Canes GM Don Waddell said “We’re proud that he has chosen to retire with the Carolina Hurricanes” in his press release.
Whatever, dude. If you really wanted Ward to retire with the club he spent his entire career with, you would have figured something out so that he could have spent his last year with your team.
The Blackhawks did the same thing two seasons ago with Bryan Bickell, signing him to a one-day deal so he could retire in Chicago after trading him, coincidentally, to the Hurricanes. The Blackahwks wanted to get rid of Bickell so bad — because of his big contract and his under-performance, which was later determined to be caused by undiagnosed multiple sclerosis — that they even threw in future star Teuvo Teravainen to sweeten the deal.
I always liked Bickell for his gritty style of play, and for his work with pit bull rescue. Bickell’s game-tying goal in Game Six of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals will also forever be etched in my memory. I am glad that he is still an active member of the Blackhawks’ Alumni, and a regular guest at the annual Chicago Blackhawks Convention. It just makes me sad that the team quit on him when his game started to slip.
Other examples come to mind, such as Mike Modano in 2010. The Dallas Stars could have given their former captain and 20-year veteran one more year, but had no interest in keeping him around. So he signed with the Detroit Red Wings, played one season, retired, and then was given a one-day contract with Dallas so he could “really” retire with the Stars. But I’m sure he would have preferred to have played his last year in Dallas.
It cuts both ways, though. Mats Sundin ditched the Maple Leafs, and instead chose to finish out his career with the Canucks in 2008-09. Daniel Alfredsson left the Senators and played his final year, 2013-14, with the Red Wings. Both players, who were captains of their former teams, were given one–day contracts so that they could “retire” with the teams where they spent most of their careers with. While Maple Leafs and Senators fans probably liked seeing their franchise heroes come back, albeit for a day, they probably wish that these players didn’t leave in the first place.
Regardless of all the one-day contracts, if you look up stats on HockeyDB or NHL.com, they show that Ward’s last team was the Blackhawks, Bickell’s was the Hurricanes, Sundin’s the Canucks, and Alfredsson’s and Modano’s the Red Wings. So, we really know what teams these players retired with.
One-day contracts should be for Make-A-Wish kids who get to live out their dream of being a pro hockey player for a day, and not for teams trying to bury the hatchet with a longtime player and/or to appease fans who were angry about that player’s departure. If an NHL franchise wants to honor and respect one of their legends, why not do what they need to do to keep them on the team they love in the first place? Because the charade of the one-day deal fools no one. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.