60 Percent Chance
What’s even more complicated than the blue line situation? How about four goalies, one set to be bought out and the other three set to be free agents. Such is life for Carolina when it comes to the position between the pipes.
Scott Darling doesn’t qualify for the conversation under the “dress two playoff game” provision set at the start, but his name has to be mentioned in what happens with the netminders. His odds aren’t 60 percent – they are less than 1 percent – but it makes sense to discuss him here.
Darling was nothing short of a disaster in his time in Carolina. Signed as the presumed starter, Darling eventually was reduced to backup role and then lost even that very early in the season. A short stint in Charlotte led to a leave of absence and suddenly more people know where Jimmy Hoffa is than Scott Darling. Carolina will buy out the remainder of his deal.
Petr Mrazek had a career year and his compliment in net, Curtis McElhinney, proved to be one of the more reliable back ups in the league last year. Both will be Unrestricted Free Agents come July 1 and both could easily generate some interest.
Combine the play of Alex Nedljkovic this past season in Charlotte where he lead the Checkers to Calder Cup and won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award for Outstanding Goaltender in the American Hockey League, and it’s really going to be interesting to see which two guys are on the ice for the Hurricanes in October.
Carolina has made their intentions clear about their plans for Mrazek and McElhinney – they want both of them “in the fold.” But what exactly does that mean?
There is still potential for Carolina to grab a top tier goalie elsewhere, too. Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov and Mike Smith – all playoff starting goalies this year – are likely to hit the open market. Does Carolina try to grab one of these guys and then have one of the three other guys back him up?
Nedlkovic, as a Restricted Free Agent, will absolutely be resigned but where he starts is the only question. Individually, one of the three will be a Hurricane at the start of the year, but who that one is is completely up the air.
There is also the chance that all three are given new deals with the assumption that Mrazek is the starter. This gives Carolina the option to have McElhinney and Nedljkovic battle it out for the number two spot. If McElhinney wins the job, Nedljkovic goes back to Charlotte. If Nedljkovic does, McElhinney is put on waivers.