Scott Darling is headed to the Carolina Hurricanes. That was the news that came out of Raleigh on Friday, April 28. Darling has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ backup goaltender to Corey Crawford for the past three years. He has played extremely well as a backup, and now may get the chance to be the starter in Carolina.
First, the Trade
On Feb. 28, the Hurricanes traded forward Viktor Stalberg to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. It was this pick that the ‘Canes gave to the Blackhawks in exchange for Darling. It appears to be a very good trade for both teams, as the Hurricanes have a bag full of draft picks, and Darling was likely not going to be a Blackhawk after he became an unrestricted free-agent in June.
Satchel Price wrote at secondcityhockey.com, after the trade, that the ‘Hawks traded Darling for a pick because they knew they were going to lose him. Price wrote,
“The thing is, for the Blackhawks, it’s basically a free pick. Darling is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and the Blackhawks aren’t going to have much cap space this summer. Unless Darling was going to take a massive discount to stay in Chicago or the team tried to move Corey Crawford, he was always going to leave.”
It makes sense that Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman got a pick for Darling as opposed to having him leave July 1 and get nothing in return. Like his counterpart Hurricanes Ron Francis, Bowman has amassed a pile of picks that now stands at 10 for the 2017 NHL Draft.
What Did the Hurricanes Get?
From the Hurricanes press release, here is the lowdown on Darling: “Born in Newport News, VA, but raised in Lamont, IL, Darling (6’6″, 232 lbs.) made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Oct. 26, 2015. In 75 career NHL games with Chicago, he has posted a 39-17-9 record, a 2.37 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. In 2015, Darling went 3-1 in five opening-round playoff appearances against Nashville, helping the Blackhawks win their first-round series en route to their third Stanley Cup championship in six years.”
Price called Darling one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL over the past three seasons. Francis agrees, saying in the above-referenced statement,
“Scott had a very successful season in Chicago and was a big part of the Blackhawks finishing with the best record in the Western Conference. He played a critical role on Chicago’s 2015 championship team.”
That sounds very promising to Hurricanes fans, who knew deep down that this season might be the one that finally puts a face in goal other than that of Cam Ward.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 29, 2017
Darling had a good season with the Blackhawks — he appeared in 32 games and went 18-5-5 sporting a 2.38 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Compared with current Hurricanes starter Ward — who went 26-22-12 and had a 2.69 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 61 games — Darling looks much better, but in only half the number outings. Lack went 8-7-3 and had a 2.64 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 61 games.
ESPN.com puts the comparisons in perspective: “With Cam Ward and Eddie Lack in net, the Hurricanes ranked 18th in the league, allowing 2.8 goals per game, while facing the fifth-fewest shots on goal.” The winds of change are blowing in Raleigh, NC and most recently, Darling blew into town on those winds.
The Carolina Hurricanes gave up the 5th fewest shots on goal, but were 18th in goals allowed. Enter…a real goalie pic.twitter.com/YgyaI8gpMU
— Chief (@BarstoolChief) April 29, 2017
I wrote just a week ago that Francis made it clear at his end of season press conference that he’s looking to do something different in net. It did not take him long to find a willing partner in the Blackhawks with which to deal. With 10 picks overall, including six in the first round, Francis is in a great spot to make more deals in the next few months. He knows that there will be other teams in situations like the Blackhawks that do not want to lose a player and get nothing in return, especially in the expansion draft.
Even though the Hurricanes dropped from the 11th pick to the 12th in the NHL Draft Lottery, Francis is still in good shape. This might be an offseason to remember for Hurricanes fans. So far, it’s been a darling.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.