The Montreal Canadiens have invited veteran forward Joel Ward to training camp on a professional tryout, giving him another chance in the NHL after becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
It’s easy to forget that Ward is just a few years removed from being a 20-goal, 40-point player for the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks, given his low-key personality and workman-like play style. The veteran of 726 regular season games scored just 12 points in 52 games for the Sharks last season but has been a solid offensive contributor throughout his career and could basically play anywhere in a lineup. There was an obvious decline in play and opportunity in 2017-18, but even at 37 there may be enough left in the tank for another season in the NHL.
That opportunity may come in Montreal, where the Canadiens suddenly find themselves with a very uncertain forward group heading into the season. With Max Pacioretty the latest to be traded away, and several players still sidelined with injury—though Paul Byron appears to be ahead of schedule and could be ready for the start of the year—the team might be forced to play several young players in important positions. A player like Ward could mitigate that need somewhat, and at least provide another veteran option for the team if they’d rather their prospects get more seasoning at the minor league or junior level. There are few players as well respected and liked as Ward around the league, and at the very least that can rub off on the Canadiens during a period in which they’re looking for new leadership among the players.