The Chicago Blackhawks had one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL over the past three years, but on Friday, Scott Darling got traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. It ends a fantastic three-year partnership between the Hawks and Darling, who proved in Chicago that he could play at the highest level.
Now he’s gone to pursue his chance at being a starter, and the Blackhawks are left with the Ottawa Senators’ 2017 third-round pick.
At first glance, that might seem like a paltry return for a potential key player. Darling could be an above-average starter in the NHL, and the Hurricanes got him for the same pick they received by trading Viktor Stalberg. It’s not exactly a high cost.
The thing is, for the Blackhawks, it’s basically a free pick. Darling is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and the Blackhawks aren’t going to have much cap space this summer. Unless Darling was going to take a massive discount to stay in Chicago or the team tried to move Corey Crawford, he was always going to leave.
So now instead of having Darling hit free agency in a couple months with the Blackhawks left empty-handed, GM Stan Bowman smartly moved him ahead of time to get another pick for the stockpile. Even after their midseason trades for Johnny Oduya and Tomas Jurco, they now have 10 picks in the 2017 draft. It’ll be a big chance to address a prospect pipeline that, while coming off a solid year, lacks high-upside talent beyond Alex DeBrincat.
The Blackhawks still need to figure out what they’re doing in goal beyond Crawford, but that was inevitable with their cap situation. What this deal showed, however, is how Bowman shrewdly keeps the wheels spinning to load up on draft picks and maintain a flow of talent into the organization.