The Carolina Hurricanes felt they were finally getting the starting goaltender it needed to take the team into the playoffs in 2017 when they traded for immediately signed the Chicago Blackhawks’ backup goalie Scott Darling to a four-year, $16.6MM contract. After two long and disappointing years, it looks like the Hurricanes are ready to pull the plug on the deal as David Pagnotta of the Fourth Period reports that Carolina intends to buy out the netminder when the buyout period opens.
If the Hurricanes do follow through with a buyout, the buyout cap hit would break down like this (according to CapFriendly):
Darling, who was the backup to Corey Crawford during the Blackhawks’ successful playoff runs, was acquired for a third-round pick in 2017. In his final season in Chicago, he posted a 2.37 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 32 games played, but had never served as a starting goalie. However, nothing went right once Darling hit the ice in Carolina. He struggled in his initial season in 2017-18 when he 3.18 GAA and a .888 save percentage in a career-high 43 games. Despite talk during the summer that Darling was committed to conditioning and getting back on track, the Hurricanes choose to claim goaltender Curtis McElhinney off waivers, giving them three goaltenders alongside Darling and Petr Mrazek. The three played in tandem, but Darling only made eight appearances, struggling even more. He finished with a 3.34 GAA and a .884 save percentage, eventually being placed on waivers and sent to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL in hopes of him regaining his confidence. Instead, he continued to struggle, putting up a 3.40 GAA and a .882 save percentage in 14 appearances there, prompting the goaltender to take a leave of absence in which he never returned.
If the Hurricanes do buyout Darling, it will have to sign another goaltender before July 1 as teams need to have three goaltenders under contract, according to the CBA. At the moment, the team only has two goaltenders under contract, including Jeremy Helvig and Callum Booth, neither of which are in their 2018-19 plans. McElhinney and Mrazek are both slated to become unrestricted free agents, while AHL star Alex Nedeljkovic will be a restricted free agent this summer.