Ex-Blackhawks goalie Darling says former teammates convinced him Carolina was good fit
When the Blackhawks traded Scott Darling to Carolina just over a week ago, there were plenty of pundits who thought the 28-year-old unrestricted free agent would hold out until July 1 rather than sign with the Hurricanes.
But once Darling spoke with former Hawks Bryan Bickell and Joakim Nordstrom, he knew he was heading east.
"They had nothing but great things to say about living there," Darling said Saturday, one day after signing a four-year, $16.6 million deal with Carolina. "It's a big commitment to hopefully be somewhere for four years. They said everything's first class, it's a great way of life and they love living in Carolina. So that kind of put my mind at ease."
Carolina general manager Ron Francis took a calculated risk when he gave the Hawks a third-round pick for the rights to negotiate with the 6-foot-6, 232-pound goaltender.
He felt it was one worth taking.
"I like the fact that he's big and he's competitive as hell," Francis said. "We feel that he's ready for that opportunity and we think he's capable of succeeding once he gets that chance.
"I'm glad that he saw it the way we did -- that this is a good fit for him and a good opportunity for him, and he was willing to jump on board (now) rather than wait until July 1."
Goalies Cam Ward ($3.1 million) and Eddie Lack ($3.0 million) are both under contract for one more season with the Hurricanes. Ward started 61 games last season and went 26-22-12 with a .905 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against average.
The Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and finished in sixth, seventh or eighth (last) place in their division the past four seasons.
During his three years with the Hawks, Darling compiled a 39-17-9 record with a .923 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average in 75 games (64 starts).
However, Darling hasn't had more than 27 starts in a season. His longest stretches of consecutive starts were an 11-game run in the 2015-16 season and a 10-game run last season as Corey Crawford recovered from an appendectomy.
So what makes the Lemont native so confident he can succeed as a starter?
"I'm confident because I'm excited about it," Darling said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be. I have a good network of goalie friends. I'm going to be picking their brains and asking them for help."
Darling credits Crawford for helping him learn the mental side of the game and said he'll never forget his first game as a Hawk -- a 2-1 victory over Ottawa at the United Center in which he made 32 saves on Oct. 26, 2014.
"I'm so proud to have played for the Blackhawks," Darling said. "I've loved the team since I was a little kid. … For somebody like me it was such an honor, and I'm just thrilled that I got to experience it."
As for the Hawks, not one of their goalies behind Crawford has NHL experience. Their options for next year include 31-year-old journeyman Jeff Glass, 25-year-old Mac Carruth, and 29-year-old Lars Johansson. They may look to sign a veteran to an inexpensive deal in the off-season.
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