The Carolina Hurricanes and goaltender Scott Darling have agreed to terms on a four-year deal worth $16.6 million, the team announced Friday. Darling was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 prior to inking this deal which will pay the 28-year-old netminder $4.15 million per year through the 2020-21 season.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) May 6, 2017
Darling has spent the last three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks serving as the primary backup for Corey Crawford in that time. While with the Blackhawks, Darling proved his value time and time again, most recently with an 18-5-5 record in 32 games last season with a 2.38 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. After paying his dues as a backup, Darling made it clear that his aspirations were to earn an opportunity as a full-time starting goaltender.
“Yeah, I feel like I’ve paid my dues as a backup,” Darling said. “And when I’ve had a chance to play in consecutive games I feel like I’ve shown that I can do it.”
Darling’s Time in Carolina
Due to his desire to play a larger role while also taking into account the salary cap situation of the Blackhawks, a trade sending Darling to the Hurricanes was arranged on April 29 sending his UFA rights to Carolina with a 2017 third-round selection being returned to Chicago. The deal was an interesting one, however, as it saw the Hurricanes load up on yet another goaltender ahead of the expansion draft that will allow teams to protect only one goalie. With Cam Ward, Eddie Lack and Darling all on the roster, the team will be forced to leave two netminders unprotected. Given the high price to acquire the rights of Darling as well as this new contract, it seems likely that the Hurricanes will protect the Newport News, Virginia-native while leaving their other two goalies unprotected.
“Obviously Scott could have waited until July 1, to see what other options he might have as an unrestricted free agent,” Hurricanes’ general manager Ron Francis said. “But he believes in what we are trying to do here and we are thrilled that he is committing to the Hurricanes and to Raleigh.”
Goaltending Improvement Needed
The Hurricanes were in severe need of goaltending improvement. When looking at their situation in net in 2016-17, that much was clear. Ward played in the majority of the Hurricanes’ games, posting a 26-22-12 record with a 2.69 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Eddie Lack on the other hand, played in 19 games and compiled an 8-7-3 record with a 2.64 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. In his career, Darling has played in 75 games, posting a 39-17-9 record with a 2.37 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.
With Darling, the hope is that the goaltending situation will be significantly better moving forward. There are no guarantees in sports, but Francis did what he had to do to get an above-average goalie in the fray. The price of a third-round pick for the UFA rights of a player initially seemed high, but with an extension in place, the deal appears to have paid off for the Hurricanes early in their offseason.