The Carolina Hurricanes didn't make a big free agency splash - they've historically never been a team to do so - but they did check off another box on their offseason to-do list.
The Hurricanes signed goaltender Petr Mrazek to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million to round out their duo of Scott Darling and Mrazek between the pipes for the 2018-19 season.
"At 26 years of age, we felt there's still upside," President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "The age was a big factor for us. He's still a young player with a lot to prove, and he's determined to prove it."
Mrazek owns a 2.66 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and 14 shutouts over six career seasons. In 11 playoff games, Mrazek has posted a 1.98 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and three shutouts. The Czech native was most recently a primary starter for Detroit in the 2015-16 season, when he went 27-16-6 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage en route to a Stanley Cup playoff berth.
"When I talked to Petr on the phone … he said, 'I want to go someplace on a one-year deal and prove that I'm the guy to be the No. 1 guy,'" Waddell said. "We got real comfortable that he was energized and excited about coming here to prove that he's a No. 1 guy."
Video: Don Waddell Free Agency Press Conference
Darling is entering into year two of a four-year contract he signed with the Hurricanes last summer, and he's coming off a less-than-ideal performance in 2017-18. Just as Mrazek wants to prove his worth, so does Darling.
"He's got a new outlook in his personal and professional life," Waddell said. "He's settled here. He bought a house in North Raleigh and has been working with Bill Burniston for the last three weeks in the gym every single day. Bill's reports have been outstanding. He looks great and feels good."
Competition will drive both goaltenders in camp, with the Hurricanes not committing to either as the starter just yet.
"We have to go in with a very open mind. Competition is good," Waddell said. "Competition brings out the best in people. Nobody is going to be appointed the No. 1 job without going out and proving it."
Ward Signs in Chicago
For the first time in 13 seasons, the Hurricanes' netminding duo will not feature Cam Ward, who was drafted 25th overall by the club in 2002.
Ward, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Cam as a person, there's no better. He's one of the best guys I've been around," Waddell said. "We all know what he's meant to this organization and community. … Cam will never be forgotten in this organization."
Video: Thank You, Cam Ward
"I understand that they're going in a different direction, and that was their idea. I didn't really know what to expect come UFA period. You hope that teams come calling," Ward said on a conference call. "It's unfortunate that things didn't pan out. I had always imagined myself retiring as a Hurricane and playing my whole career there, but with that being said, this has opened the door for a new opportunity and challenge for me, and I'm excited to see what comes out of it."
The Blackhawks will make their first and only visit to Raleigh in the 2018-19 season on Monday, Nov. 12.
Van Riemsdyk Close to Returning
After last week tendering a qualifying offer to restricted free agent defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, the Hurricanes are "getting close" to re-signing him, according to Waddell.
Bringing the 26-year-old blueliner back into the fold would give the Hurricanes a glut of right-shooting defensemen - at least with the way the roster currently sits - but Waddell and Co. have already talked through that.
"Everybody feels very comfortable if we stay with the six we have right now. They can move Pesce to the left side. Slavin and Hamilton might be a pretty good pair. Pesce and Faulk," he said. "If we make no changes, I think everybody can get very comfortable with the six guys we have."
That's All … For Now
Are any further free agent signings expected today? No, but that doesn't mean the Canes are finished shopping.
"There are some names we're following and tracking," Waddell hinted, though suggested the moves would be depth signings, if anything.
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Then, there are trades. What about Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, names which have surfaced in recent trade talks?
"Jeff is an important part of this organization. … He's an asset for us, whether that asset comes back and plays next year or moves on," Waddell said. "We're not just giving Jeff Skinner away."
The same is true for Faulk.
Waddell expects conversations about those players could be more frequent in the coming weeks, though.
"A lot of teams in the last week have been focusing on free agency, so things potentially could heat up in the next short period of time," he said." We feel like we're in pretty good shape, but that doesn't mean we'll stop working or talking to people. … It doesn't have to happen on July 1; it can happen on August 1. We'll keep talking and see how things go."