The Sharks made a number of moves this offseason, bringing in goaltender Martin Jones and signing veteran defenseman Paul Martin. These were the headliners, which may have left winger Joel Ward an unheralded, but valuable, addition to the Sharks.
Ward was never drafted. He tried and failed to make the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 and went on to play in the CIS for the University of Prince Edward Island. For many this would put an end to hopes of ever making it to the NHL, but not forWard.
After graudating with a degree in sociology, he signed his first professional contract with the Minnesota Wild organization and played the 2005-06 season for their AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. He stayed on with the Wild for another couple years, playing in a few NHL games each season but spending the majority of his time with the Aeros.
In 2008 Ward began his first full NHL season with a new team, the Nashville Predators, at the age of 27. He played 3 seasons there, averaging 13 goals and 33 points per season. In 2011 he signed a four year, $12 million contract with the Washington Capitals as a free agent.
Most of Ward's success has come with the Capitals. His best NHL season by a significant margin was the 2013-14 season, where he scored 49 points and 24 goals without ever missing a game. While last season was a bit of a step down for Ward, he still put up solid numbers for the Capitals with 19 goals and 34 points.
Ward probably fits in best as a third liner, as can be seen in his HERO chart here:
However, this Washington Post article, published shorty after Ward signed with the Sharks, suggests that Peter DeBoer sees him as a fit with the top six forwards. If this does end up being the case we might see Ward spend time with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture.
Ward played most of his minutes in Washington with Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr, both of whom are third liners. If DeBoer opts to leave him on the third line I could see Ward fitting in well on a line with Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. We'll get our first hint of what line combinations could look like when the Sharks open training camp in a few weeks.
Wherever Ward ends up playing, he'll provide some necessary scoring depth for the Sharks. If nothing else, there's a chance Ward will hand one of these to Couture at some point this season.