“Originally when the season ended, my first thought was to maybe head back [to the Washington Capitals],” Ward said. “And just kind of more and more into the summer and free agency period, it just seemed unlikely. So I knew that was a possibility, and when I got a chance to talk to [Sharks coach Peter [DeBoer], that really helped me sway of being in a good situation.”
He spent four seasons in Washington, coming up with 34 points in 82 games last season. He scored 19 goals. In the post-season, Ward added nine points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“I’ve always loved San Jose,” Ward says of his new digs. “Even free agency a couple of years back, it was a possibility. I love the Shark Tank. Coming in there, it’s always a good environment. To be part of it now is unbelievable, and I just want to win a lot of hockey games, and I think we are going to be able to do so.”
In Ward, the Sharks get a strong player capable of moving the puck on the cycle. That’s good news for DeBoer’s system, as it heavily favours the possession game. Ward can fit in almost anywhere in the lineup, too, and has been tagged by general manager Doug Wilson as an “identity player.”
“We are extremely excited that he joined and chose us,” Wilson said. “There was a group of teams that were all over Joel. He had some tough decisions to make in the negotiations.”
The Sharks have been busy over the last while, signing Ward and free agent defenceman Paul Martin. They also traded for goalie Martin Jones.