To anybody remotely following the Carolina Hurricanes this season the team’s goaltending woes were a major issue. Besides the month of November where someone replaced Cam Ward with a Westworld android, the Hurricanes’ goalies were the worst in the league. Eddie Lack and Ward were respectively the seventh and eleventh worst goalies by save percentage in the league.
Things were so bad that General Manager Ron Francis even came out and acknowledged the fact at the end of season press conference. Speaking candidly Francis said, “It’s not a secret. Our goals against was 18th and our save percentage was tied for 27th in the league. That’s certainly an area we’ve got to look at real closely and fix for next season.”
Francis’s first step to solving his goalie issue was letting go the Hurricanes’ goalie coach for the past three seasons, David Marcoux. Technically the franchise didn’t renew Marcoux’s contract but let’s not kid ourselves — Marcoux was fired and for good reason.
The second step happened tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes traded the third round pick they acquired in the Stalberg trade to Ottawa for Chicago Blackhawks’ backup goaltender Scott Darling. There’s a little bit of nuance to this move, so let’s break things down and see how Francis did.
This offseason is a good season to be a goalie shopper. In addition to Darling, other big names are entering free agency. Names like Ben Bishop, Brian Elliot, Steve Mason, all bonafide NHL starting goaltenders; even if their stats this year were below their career averages.
Scott Darling doesn’t have that problem, though, as his stats this season were some of the best in the league. Darling’s .924 SV% is tied with John Gibson of Anaheim for fourth best in the NHL for goalies that have played at least thirty games. And in terms of the goalies in free agency, he was the best. Darling’s arrival addresses THE biggest need of the offseason, and of the franchise in general.
This trade allows Francis to sign possibly the best free agent goalie on the market without having to compete with the other thirty NHL teams. Darling’s arrival addresses THE biggest need of the offseason, and of the franchise in general. With the goalie issue out of the way, the franchise can focus more on other trades and the upcoming NHL draft.
Yes, Darling’s stats are great, but he’s put those numbers up over a very small number of games. When trying to judge the true talent of a player with numbers the more you have of them is always better and small sets of data can show a player to be much better than they actually are.
Just think back to the Cam Ward earlier in the season. If you judged him based on his numbers from November and December he’d be a top goalie in the league something everyone knows isn’t true. Darling’s 75 games fall into the range of being small enough where his results could be a random outlier of chance and not true talent.
And while Canes fans are busy imagining Darling with the sightless eye on his chest, there remains a little fact Darling hasn’t technically signed a contract. A chance, no matter how small, remains Darling just decides to go elsewhere and leave the Hurricanes with nothing to show but one less draft pick. Wouldn’t be the first time Carolina failed to sign a promising goaltender.
Darling’s agent, if he has a good one, will use this to his advantage. Darling’s extra leverage of the Hurricanes needing to get a deal done could lead to a bit of an overpay. Some reference Cam Talbot or Martin Jones three year deals of $4.1 and $3 million respectively as comparable deals. I think the money is close, but I have a feeling Darling will squeeze out an extra year for a four-year deal at $4 million a year.
Despite the drawbacks, this is a move the franchise needed to make both for the team and their fans. It was especially a deal Francis needed to make after the resigning of Ward and Lack’s extension blew up in his face. To sit and ignore the goalie situation for one more season wasn’t an option.
Once Darling’s contract is signed that only leaves Francis ripping off Marc Bergevin and getting Alex Galchenyuk on the cheap. It’s time to start saying #TheCanesAreSneakyGood. If Francis keeps making moves like this then the Canes will make the playoffs next year. Book it.