As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No 13: Joel Ward, Right Wing
2014-15 NHL Salary: $3 million [$3 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 24 goals, 25 assists, 49 points, plus-7, 32 penalty minutes
Projected 2014-15 stats: 79 games, 17 goals, 21 assists, 38 points, plus-12, 30 penalty minutes
Analysis: When the Caps signed Ward to a four-year, $12 million contract three summers ago, many believed they overpaid for a career third-line player. Many more agreed when Ward managed just 14 goals and 38 points in his first two seasons of that contract. Now entering the final year of that contract, Ward is coming off a career year in which he finished third on the team in goals , third in points , tied for first in plus-minus [plus-7] and first in shooting percentage [18 percent], well above his career average of 11.1 percent. Ward was rewarded with a regular spot on the Caps’ second power-play unit and responded with six goals on the man-advantage while averaging 1:45 of power-play time per game. Ward was also an excellent penalty killer, teaming up with linemate Jason Chimera on the Caps’ top unit and scoring a pair of shorthanded goals. He also finished second behind Alex Ovechkin  with 16 even-strength goals. When you consider Ward will turn 34 in early December [Chimera is the Caps’ oldest player at 35] it’s hard to fathom him duplicating the numbers he put up last season. He will, however, have a significant role under new coach Barry Trotz, who gave Ward his first shot as an NHL regular when Ward was a journeyman 27-year-old in Nashville. Six years later Ward finds himself competing with Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer and Tom Wilson for ice time on the right wing. And although the Caps would like to give Wilson more ice time it’s hard to imagine Ward starting the 2014-15 season any lower than third on the Caps’ depth chart at right wing. He seems to be a perfect fit with Chimera on a heavy-hitting third line. Whether their center will be Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich or someone else remains to be seen but Ward will be front and center when it comes to delivering Trotz’s “We, not me” message.