Scott Darling grateful for time with Blackhawks, 'super excited' about next chapter with Hurricanes

Scott Darling grateful for time with Blackhawks, 'super excited' about next chapter with Hurricanes

At the end of the season, Scott Darling said "it's going to be a long couple months waiting" to see how his situation as a pending unrestricted free agent plays out.

He didn't have to wait nearly as long as expected.

It took exactly a week to iron out a long-term extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, who traded for the former Blackhawks goaltender's negotiating rights for a 2017 third-round pick on April 28 and signed him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract Friday. 

And Darling is already looking forward to the next chapter.

"I was super excited when the trade happened," he said during a conference call with reporters Saturday. "My goal the whole time was to sign with Carolina. I'm really excited about the team that's there. I've heard nothing but great things. Once we worked out the contract part, it was a no-brainer."

The Hurricanes took a risk by acquiring the 28-year-old Lemont native, and not necessarily because they invested in a guy who's been a backup for the last three years. He has the tools to be a full-time starter, and they saw it first-hand when Darling stopped 39 of 40 shots against Carolina at the United Center in January.

"When you look at the size of Scott and at the body of work he's put in to this point, you get a sense of where you think he could be and what you think he can do," GM Ron Francis said. "I like the fact that he's big and competitive as hell. We feel he's ready for that opportunity and capable of succeeding."

The real gamble was that Darling could have easily passed on signing a deal so he could hit the market on July 1 to expand his pool of options. But he bought what Carolina was selling, and even chatted with former Chicago teammates Bryan Bickell and Joakim Nordstrom that helped reaffirm his positive beliefs about the organization.

"That kind of put my mind at ease," Darling said.

A large reason why Darling is as ready as possible to become an every day starter is because he had the opportunity to learn from two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford on a regular basis. Both netminders were instrumental in the Blackhawks' 2015 championship run, but Darling was able to share the ups and downs with Crawford throughout that journey and get a feel for how to overcome adverse situations.

"I think the last three years I learned a lot about the mental part of the game in watching Crow play every day and being lucky enough to study one of the best goalies in the world every single day and getting advice from him, teaching me how he goes about and thinks about goaltending," Darling said. "I learned a lot from him. The skills came along, too, but I think a lot of it was between the ears. I was lucky enough to learn from one of the best."

When Crawford missed three weeks in December due to an appendectomy, Darling was given the keys by starting all 10 games in 18 days. He went 6-3-1 and registered a .931 save percentage, including a shutout, during that stretch, expanding his sample size and further proving he's capable of handling the responsibilities of being a No. 1 goaltender.

More than anything, Darling is simply hungry to take on the challenge.

"I think I'm confident because I'm excited about it," Darling said. "I’m going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be. I have a good network of goalie friends and I’m going to be picking their brains and asking for help and do everything I can do to be successful.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How many cooks will determine Kitchen's replacement?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How many cooks will determine Kitchen's replacement?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast,  Pat Boyle sits down with Tracey Myers and Charlie Roumeliotis to discuss the latest on the Blackhawks.

The trio discuss the trade of Scott Darling, and give their favorite Darling moment and how this puts an end to any Corey Crawford trade rumors.

They also discuss the puzzling story from Artemi Panarin in which he told a Russian reporter that he was fatigued going into the playoffs, and how the team did the Breadman a solid by allowing him to go after his performance bonus.

Lastly, the crew weighs in on what might be missing from the roster and how the decision process may go to replace Mike Kitchen.

Listen to the Hawks Talk Podcast below.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.