A change in scenery will give goalie Scott Darling a chance to go from effective backup to reliable starter.
The Carolina Hurricanes acquired Darling in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on April 28 and he agreed to a four-year contract Friday. He could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but will now be in the mix with goalies Cam Ward and Eddie Lack for the Hurricanes' starting job.
Darling finished 121st overall in Yahoo, 17th among goalies, based on standard-category production this season. He went 18-5-5 in 32 games (27 starts). His .924 save percentage was tied for fifth among goalies who played at least 25 games, outperforming Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford (.918).
The Hurricanes missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight season, but made a serious push late with their group of young, talented skaters. Led by leading scorer Jeff Skinner (63 points), rookie Sebastian Aho (49) and second-half standout Elias Lindholm (45), the Hurricanes have plenty of promising forwards. They also have three defensemen who produced at least 29 points this season: Justin Faulk (37), Jaccob Slavin (34) and Noah Hanifin (29).
Their glaring weakness in recent seasons has been goaltending. Ward started the vast majority of Carolina's games (61) this season, but finished with a .905 SV%. Lack struggled despite a lighter workload than his prior three NHL seasons; he was 8-7-3 with a .902 SV%. Ward won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes as a rookie in 2006 but hasn't had better than a .910 SV% since 2011-12 (.915).
Video: Reaction to Scott Darling trade
Darling, 28, has backed up Crawford for much of his three NHL seasons, combining for a .923 SV% in 75 games. Only Carey Price (.929 in 140 games) of the Montreal Canadiens had a better SV% than Darling during that span among goalies with at least 75 games played. Darling is tied with Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild for second.
Darling's even-strength SV% in the past three seasons (.929) is tied for seventh in the League.
Ranked 224th in NHL.com's early top 250 for next season, Darling now deserves to enter the top 150-175 range after being traded to and signed by Carolina.
The Hurricanes have made this move with the hope Darling can transition smoothly to a heavier workload. He has filled in admirably for Crawford in the regular season and postseason. Fantasy owners should expect a slight dip in SV% next season with him leaving a perennial contender for the up-and-coming Hurricanes.
That said, Darling could exceed 30 wins for the first time in his NHL career if he wins the job outright and finish among the top 15 fantasy goalies if the Hurricanes take another step forward.