For a brief moment during the 2017-18 season, J-F Berube looked like the guy who could bring stability to the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender position, a spot that had been in disarray since Scott Darling grew out of the role and a problem that became magnified when Corey Crawford was lost for the season after Christmas.
It didn’t last long.
Berube proved no more competent or consistent than Anton Forsberg or Jeff Glass, posting an .894 save percentage in 13 games. On Wednesday, he was dealt to the Blue Jackets for minor-league forward Jordan Schroeder. That clears the way for the Hawks to sign a new backup goaltender, and a source confirmed that Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward is the likeliest candidate.
Ward, an unrestricted free agent, can’t sign until July 1. He’s not the massive upgrade in goal the Hawks need, but he brings a wealth of experience and surely will come at a cheaper price than Carter Hutton, Robin Lehner or Jonathan Bernier. The 34-year-old Ward won a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie in 2005-06, but he has been a below-average goalie for several years. This past season, he was 23-14-4 with a .906 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average while splitting time with Darling.
In the last five seasons, Ward has a five-on-five GSAA (goals saved above average) of minus-40, by far the worst in the league (Lehner is second-worst at minus-27). For comparison’s sake, Crawford has the league’s best GSAA in the last five seasons at plus-59, according to Corsica Hockey. Playing for the porous Hurricanes factored into those stats, but Ward hasn’t had even decent numbers since the 2011-12 season, when he posted a .915 save percentage.
The Hawks also have Forsberg, Collin Delia and newcomer Kevin Lankinen behind Crawford.
Schroeder had 14 goals and 22 assists in 48 games with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters last season. He has played 165 NHL games with the Canucks, Wild and Blue Jackets in the last six seasons and has one year left on his one-way contract, which pays him just $650,000. The 27-year-old was a first-round pick of the Canucks in 2009.
Contributing: Satchel Price