The Chicago Blackhawks need to find a way to get back to the playoffs next season, or risk wasting another year of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews while they are still effective. Though there is another wave of talent coming, the Blackhawks live and die with their two superstar forwards and still believe that their championship window is open.
To that end, Scott Powers of The Athletic (subscription required) reports that the team has spoken with the Carolina Hurricanes about defenseman Justin Faulk and former Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling. The former is expected to be on the market as the Hurricanes look to cash in on some of their defensive assets, while the latter was a disaster in his first season in Carolina and could be on the way out.
Faulk, 26, is signed for two more seasons at a $4.83MM cap hit but actually carries a salary of $6MM each year. The Blackhawks can certainly afford the bump in salary relative to cap hit, while the Hurricanes aren’t quite as flush with cash—historically at least, new owner Tom Dundon could have changed that.
The right-handed defenseman would fit perfectly into Chicago’s blue line, which struggled to create offense this season and has few reliable options on the right side now that Brent Seabrook has started his decline. Faulk is an excellent offensive player that can drive possession and score goals in all situations, something that could help take some of the pressure off of Duncan Keith, who even in arguably the worst offensive season of his career easily led all Blackhawk defenders in points.
Darling on the other hand would return to Chicago with a contract too big for his performance last season, but with the skills to still help the team in net. With Corey Crawford struggling through injury and the backup position not exactly stable, his presence could help them find some consistency should he bounce back next season.
The Hurricanes, for what it’s worth, have identified goaltending as a place for change this summer and admitted that bringing back the same two netminders would be foolish. Cam Ward is expected to reach unrestricted free agency in a few weeks, but Darling could also find himself on the way out if Carolina can land a true starting goaltender at some point.
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