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Pending UFA Ward would ‘love’ to stay in Washington

Washington Capitals v Nashville Predators

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 30: Joel Ward #42 of the Washington Capitals watches from the bench during a game against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 30, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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After another stellar postseason -- cementing his reputation as a quality playoff performer -- Capitals forward Joel Ward said he’d like to stick with the club, but isn’t sure how his future will play out.

“I’d love to stay -- it was a good group,” Ward told Sportsnet’s Fan 590 on Friday. “I thought maybe we could go all the way with this group and I’d definitely like to stay, for sure.”

Ward, 34, just wrapped the last of a four-year, $12 million deal and was full value for his $3M cap hit over the final two seasons. He scored a career-high 24 goals in 2013-14 and potted 19 this year, punctuated by yet another stellar playoff run.

Ward scored three goals and nine points in 14 games this spring, replicating the success he had with the Predators under Barry Trotz (perhaps you’re sensing a connection there.) Ward’s minutes jumped up, big time -- after getting 16:52 per game during the regular season, he averaged over 19 -- which was similar to how Trotz utilized Ward in Nashville; during the 2011 playoffs, Ward averaged 20:25 a night and scored seven goals and 13 points in 12 games.

There figures to be plenty of interest in Ward should he hit the open market. It’s important to note that he’s not your typical 34-year-old, having made his NHL debut at 26. He has just over 500 regular-season games on his resume and, by the sounds of it, welcomes playing a few more at Verizon.

“I’ve been here for a couple years now and it’s a great city, fanbase is great and we must be up there in selling jerseys,” he said. “People come to the games, they come to ‘Rock the Red’ every game and it’s a good chance to play some superstars, like [Ovechkin] and Backstrom, which made things more fun obviously.

“Hopefully I’ll come back.”