Scott Darling was expected to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career this summer, but that may not be happening after all. The Carolina Hurricanes announced this evening that they have acquired the goalie from the Chicago Blackhawks. In exchange, the Blackhawks will receive the Ottawa Senator’s 2017 third-round pick, originally acquired by the ’Canes at the Trade Deadline for forward Viktor Stalberg.
Following this trade, Carolina now holds the exclusive right to sign Darling prior to the beginning of free agency on July 1st. The Vegas Golden Knights will have a 48-hour window to speak with Darling prior to the Expansion Draft on June 21st, but may only sign Darling if they then select him in the Expansion Draft. However, giving up a third-round pick for two months of exclusive talks with Darling seems to indicate that the Hurricanes are intent on signing the 28-year-old. That could mean that they sign Darling prior to June 21st and protect him in the draft or they could instead agree orally on a deal and use their one slot to protect another goalie, either longtime starter Cam Ward or 2015 off-season trade addition Eddie Lack. Darling greatly outperformed both as the backup in Chicago this season and the Hurricanes may not care if either is selected; they could simply protect Darling regardless of having a deal in place.
In a career-high 32 appearances in 2016-17, Darling was 18-5-5 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average. That performance was good enough for the sixth-best save percentage and the eleventh-best goals against average in the entire NHL. Although he is 28 years old, Darling has little wear on the tires and, if he continues to play this well with a greater workload, could be the Hurricanes starting goalie for quite a few years.