Ward eyes options

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

With operation of his team suspended and his contract option declined by the Edmonton Oilers, Geoff Ward is embarking on the coaching version of free agency.

Ward, behind the bench with the Road Runners of the AHL last season and a part of the Oilers' minor-league system as a coach since 2001-02, didn't have a one-year option exercised by Wednesday's deadline, so he's free to seek work elsewhere.

"I'm kind of hoping I can stay with the organization. That's my first priority," Ward said yesterday from his home in Ontario. "I haven't started looking too hard, yet."

Ward, 43, who guided the Road Runners to a record of 32-33-4-11 with assistant coaches Joe Paterson and Kelly Buchberger, is under contract to the Oilers until the end of August, but he's been given permission by the team to explore his options.

"We've talked to Geoff and told him we're going to try to find something for him in the organization," assistant GM Scott Howson said. "We can't make any promises right now, but we'd like to keep him."

The question is, where would the Oilers put him?

GM Kevin Lowe has a full NHL roster with Craig MacTavish, Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Craig Simpson. With the Road Runners suspended for 2005-06, the Oilers will send their top prospects to Hamilton and Des Moines of the AHL in limited affiliations. Those teams are operated by Montreal and Dallas, respectively, meaning the Canadiens and Stars will make the calls on the coaching staffs.

Ward is friends with Montreal coach Claude Julien, with whom he shared the bench in Hamilton with the Bulldogs, so there's a possibility he could end up in the Habs' system.

"Claude and I enjoyed our time together," said Ward, who became the head coach in Hamilton after Julien left Steeltown to take over behind the Habs' bench. "At some point, we may get to do it again."

Ward coached previously with the Kitchener Rangers, Guelph Storm and Mississauga Ice Dogs of the OHL, and he hasn't ruled out a return to the junior ranks if he can't be placed somewhere by the Oilers.

Then there's Plan B has a teaching degree and also has experience in the construction industry.

"I've formulated two plans," Ward said. "Plan A involves hockey and Plan B involves getting back to the real world, if that's what I have to do. I have some options, but I hope it doesn't come to that."


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