Darling, a pending UFA, ‘excited’ for starting goalie audition

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When most think of next summer’s potential free agent goalie class, names like Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller tend to top the list.

But there’s another pending UFA ‘tender that’s made a name for himself lately: Scott Darling.

Darling has been Chicago’s goalie of record in each of the last three games, as Corey Crawford recovers from an appendectomy. He’s fared very well, stopping 79 of 84 shots, and recorded his first shutout of the year in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Coyotes.

Needless to say, Darling is stoked about the opportunity at hand.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” he told the Chicago Tribune, when asked about his feelings on carrying a starter’s workload.

Darling is 5-2-1 on the year, with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage. Those are pretty good numbers to head into free agency with, and he’s got some other things going for him as well — specifically, his size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) and age (turns 28 later this month).

One has to think an ideal situation for Darling would be the one Chad Johnson‘s found in Calgary. Signed this summer (a relatively modest $1.7M pact) to be Brian Elliott‘s backup, Johnson — a 30-year-old journeyman — had an opportunity to carry the No. 1 workload after Elliott got off to a horrendous start.

Now, Johnson is one of the NHL’s hottest goalies, and essentially the Flames’ starter.

As the situation in Calgary has shown, having two capable netminders is extremely important. Earlier this week, Brough highlighted five backup ‘tenders that aren’t getting the job done — suggesting there should be a healthy market for Darling’s services this summer.

Should he continue to play well, of course.