Aaron Ward was out on a Raleigh area golf course Friday morning when his cell phone rang. Ward usually never takes a call when golfing, but he noticed the number was a Bruins office number, so he decided to pick it up. Sure enough, it was Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, and he was calling to tell Ward that there was no need to come back up to Boston for training camp this fall because he had just been traded to Carolina for Patrick Eaves and a 2010 fourth-round draft pick.
“I still kind of wish I never picked it up,” Ward told NESN.com late Friday afternoon when reached by phone. “I’m really in shock and have a lot of mixed emotions now.”
Ward’s mixed emotions stem from his sadness to leave a team he loved playing for since coming to the Bruins at the 2007 NHL trade deadline, and happiness over going back to play for the team he helped win the 2006 Stanley Cup and returning to his full-time home in Cary, N.C.
“Look, I need to first and foremost thank the Bruins for my time there — the players, coaches, management and the fans,” Ward said. “I had such a great time becoming a Bostonian and helping the Bruins become part of the fabric of the sports scene again. That was such a sense of pride to help that organization become relevant again, and I’m so happy for my teammates I had there, the people who work hard behind the scenes marketing the team and just hockey and Bruins fans in general. That team is a contender now, and they matter again in Boston.
"But that being said, I’m also happy to come home and have a chance to play for the team I won a Cup with and to be able to be with my family full-time and live here. I love the area and have always been fond of this organization and Jim Rutherford.”
During a teleconference with the media Chiarelli said that unless he was able to work out a deal with Carolina he wouldn’t trade Ward. He also praised the veteran defenseman and three-time Stanley Cup champion.
"He's been a tremendous soldier here," Chiarelli said. "He brought experience, size and strength, and a stabilizing presence to the defense. Frankly, I wouldn't have traded him anywhere else but Carolina, because that's where his home is. I do appreciate the time, service and personality Aaron brought to the organization."
Ward was extremely grateful to hear that and understands it is a business but still admitted it will take some time to let the trade sink in.
“I really want to thank Peter for that, and that means a lot to me because I know this is a business and he needs to do what’s right for his team,” Chiarelli said. “So for him to factor in my wishes and my concern was classy. But I don’t know, this will take a while to sink in. I loved being a Bruin, and I thought I would be this coming season. But this is part of the salary-cap era. Anyone is fair game.”
When reached by phone at his Minnesota home, Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart agreed with Ward and admitted that he has been keeping tabs on the Bruins’ moves this summer because he was worried he could be shipped out as well.
“Oh yeah, I keep a close eye on all of that because you never know when it may be you,” Stuart acknowledged. “I would’ve never imagined “Wardo” would be the guy because he was such a huge part of our dressing room and a leader. I learned a lot from him, and I’m going to miss him.”
Bruins fans and even the media will, too, as Ward was always accommodating to both.