Scott Darling

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Trade: Hurricanes acquire Reimer, Darling headed to Florida to be bought out

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James Reimer is now a member of the Carolina Hurricanes and Scott Darling, now a member of the Florida Panthers, will be bought out by his new team after a trade was made on Sunday.

The Panthers also get a 2020 sixth-round pick in the deal and don’t retain any of Reimer’s $3.4 million cap hit. Darling has been put on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. If unclaimed, that will become official tomorrow.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, get a goalie under contract with both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney pending unrestricted free agents heading into tomorrow’s free agent frenzy. GM Don Waddell has an insurance policy if they can’t re-sign one or both of the tandem that helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference Final last year.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The deal seems to include some creative finagling between both clubs. As Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports, the Panthers had struggled to move Reimer due to a signing bonus of $2.25 million owed to the goalie next year.

This way, the Panthers won’t owe that cash to Reimer, a move that will net them just over $3 million in savings, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli. They would have spent more buying out Reimer, so it works out.

For Florida, the move appears to pave the way for Sergei Bobrovsky to join the team as early as Monday when the free agency window opens. Roberto Luongo retired last week and with Reimer gone, the Panthers are in need of a starting netminder.

Darling’s buyout, meanwhile, looks like this, per CapFriendly:

2019-20 $1.233M
2020-21 $2.333M
2021-22 $1.183M
2022-23 $1.183M

Darling has been anything by his namesake since joining the Hurricanes from the Chicago Blackhawks on a four-year, $16.6 million deal two summers ago.

His numbers as a backup were outstanding, but as a starter in Carolina, he never finished a season above a .890 save percentage. Things didn’t get much better when he was sent down to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League this past season. The Hurricanes were desperate for a successor to Cam Ward at the time and they took the gamble and lost hard.

Being able to trade him, however, should be looked at as a good thing, especially since they retained none of his salary in the deal.

The Hurricanes have $22 million and a bit of change to head into the free agency window with but that is an artificial figure as they still have to re-sign Sebastian Aho and Gustav Forsling.

As TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports, the Hurricanes are still trying to re-sign Mrazek and have cast a line into Semyon Varlamov‘s camp, as well. Reimer isn’t starting material, but he can be a serviceable backup, with emphasis on the can part.

The Panthers have $25 million to work with some lower-priced restricted free agents to sign to deals. As mentioned above, there’s more than enough room to bring Bob into the fold. Maybe Artemi Panarin too, if they’re lucky.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

Buyout Frenzy: Five candidates to have contracts nixed from the books

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Ah, the buyout.

A team’s “out” to a bad contract, often one that said team signed and one they regretted at some point after the ink hit the signature spot on the contract sheet.

It’s an out with a catch. You can shed cap space, but only some. While mistakes can be forgiven, they’re not forgotten for some time. The length varies from case to case. It’s like getting a divorce but still living with your ex-spouse. You’re free, but not really. It’s not ideal.

The fact is, some relationships end up in that spot, and in hockey, when a usually-high-paid player becomes unwanted — a surplus to requirements — or he’s a square peg that can’t be fit into the round holes of a team’s salary cap, it’s one way to trim off some fat.

The buyout window opens today and will remain open until June 30.

First, a short primer courtesy of the fine folks at CapFriendly, who are doing God’s work:

Teams are permitted to buyout a players contract to obtain a reduced salary cap hit over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. The buyout amount is a function of the players age at the time of the buyout, and are as follows:

  1. One-third of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
  2. Two-thirds of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout

The team still takes a cap hit, and the cap hit by year is calculated as follows:

  1. Multiply the remaining salary (excluding signing bonuses) by the buyout amount (as determined by age) to obtain the total buyout cost
  2. Spread the total buyout cost evenly over twice the remaining contract years
  3. Determine the savings by subtracting the annual buyout cost from Step 2. by the players salary (excluding signing bonuses)
  4. Determine the remaining cap hit by subtracting the savings from Step 3. by the players Annual Average Salary (AAV) (including signing bonuses)

With that out of the way, let’s look at five candidates (in no particular order) who may be bought out over the next two weeks.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Dion Phaneuf, Los Angeles Kings

The once powerful Kings have been reduced to kingdom more befitting of Jurassic Park. They have their share of stars from yesteryear on that team, and a couple making premium coin for regular, unleaded performance.

Phaneuf is a shade of the player he used to be. It’s understandable, given he’s 34 and on the back nine of his career. He’s got two years remaining on a deal that the Kings will be on the hook for $12 million.

Trading Phaneuf isn’t likely. He had six points in 67 games last year and the Kings, who were dreadful, healthy-scratched Phaneuf down the stretch.

Using CapFriendly’s handy-dandy buyout calculator, we see Phaneuf’s buyout would save the Kings just over $2.8 million, including a ~$4 million savings next year and a more modest $1.583 the following year.

Phaneuf’s cap hit over four years would be a total of $8.375 million, with the Ottawa Senators retaining 25 percent or $2.791 million per the transaction the two teams made in 2018.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes 

A lesson in a team throwing way to much money at a backup goaltender with decent numbers.

Darling has fallen out of favor in Carolina after signing a four-year, $16.6 million deal during the 2017 offseason.

Darling’s play was a disaster in the first year of the deal and Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney took over around December of this past season.

Darling was placed on waivers and was unsurprisingly not claimed and seems a shoe-in for an immediate buyout. The Hurricanes will save $2.366 million, taking a total cap hit of just under $6 million over the next four years.

Those savings can go to toward trying to re-up both Mrazek and McEhlinney, a duo that helped the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final.

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Dmitry Kulikov, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets bet on Kulikov’s lingering back injuries being behind the Russian defenseman when they signed him two years ago in the offseason. The bet was wrong.

Kulikov’s back has a durability rating that would be frowned upon by Consumer Reports.

But his back isn’t the biggest issue Winnipeg has. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a money issue. You see, he needs to spend a lot this offseason on guys named Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and he has more than one contract he’d like to dispose of. But while a guy like Mathieu Perreault would find suitors in the trade market, Kulikov won’t.

So while Kulikov has one year left on a deal that hits the cap for $4.333 million, a buyout would save Cheveldayoff close to $3 million in desperately needed cap space for the coming season.

Drafting well in the first round has caught up with the Jets.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Like Phaneuf not far down the I-5, Perry has seen his production nose-dive at 34 years old. There’s a lot of mileage on Perry’s skates, and regular oil changes aren’t cutting it anymore.

Perry has two years left on a deal that hits their bottom line for $8.625 million over the next two seasons.

The Ducks would have $6 million this year alone by buying out Perry, who is essentially trade proof with a full no-movement clause.

Perry’s cap hit would jump up to 6.625 mill the following year with a signing bonus of $3 million still owed, but then would only hurt for $2 million over the two added buyout years. In the end, the Ducks would save $4 million and open up a roster spot for a younger player.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this guy just hoisted the Stanley Cup and played a hell of a role on the fourth line to help the Blues to their first title in franchise history.”

Indeed, Steen did all of those things. But interim coach Craig Berube put Steen on the fourth line, a role he relished in but one that can be replaced for much, much cheaper.

Steen, 35, has seen his production plummet over the past several seasons — far away from the realm of money he’s making with a $5.75 million cap hit. That’s too much for a fourth line player.

The Blues have some signings to make themselves, including a big-money extension for rookie sensation Jordan Binnington and other pieces to the puzzle such as Patrick Maroon.

Buying out Steen would come with a cap savings of $3 million, including a $6 million savings over the next two seasons. The Blues have $18 million and change to play with and a host of RFAs that need to get paid.

Other candidates

The above five came in no particular order. This list could extend for a while.

Some other notable names that could see their contracts bought out are:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Hurricanes’ crease gets less crowded as Darling is waived

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Scott Darling‘s time with the Carolina Hurricanes appears to be coming to an end with the news that the team has placed the 29-year-old goaltender on waivers. Should be clear on Friday he’ll be assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte.

“For us to carry an extra goalie right now is fine, and I think it will sort itself out in the near future,” were the words from Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell earlier this month when asked about the team’s three-goalie situation after Darling returned from injury and the team claimed Curtis McElhinney on waivers.

Darling has posted an .893 even strength save percentage in seven starts this season, the third-worst number in the NHL among goaltenders with at least seven appearances. As the Hurricanes have played their way into an Eastern Conference Wild Card spot, it’s been thanks to the play of McElhinney (.942 ESSV%) and Petr Mrazek (.920).

“We milked that for as long as we could, just to be fair to everybody,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “Having three just doesn’t set up very well. It’s hard to practice and hard for them to get their reps.”

There was a lot of promise in Carolina when the Hurricanes acquired Darling’s negotiating rights from the Chicago Blackhawks in May 2017 and then signed him a four-year, $16.6 million deal. It looked like a major hole had been filled, but that wasn’t the case last season. In 43 appearances he recorded a .897 ESSV% and ended up splitting time with Cam Ward, which wasn’t the plan when they signed Darling.

It’s hard to imagine a team– no, not the Philadelphia Flyers — claiming Darling and taking on the remaining term and money owed to him. The team invested in him heavily and now he needs to go find his game again.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hurricanes’ Darling set to miss ‘a couple weeks’ with lower-body injury

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The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to be without their No. 1 netminder to start the season.

Scott Darling, who left Carolina’s final preseason game against the Nashville Predators with a lower-body injury on Sunday, will be out for at least a couple of weeks, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

Darling has been enjoying a solid preseason before giving up three goals on 20 shots and then picking up the knock over the weekend.

After Sunday’s game, Brind’Amour said there was “concern” over Darling’s injury. This comes after the netminder entered the summer with a different focus following a dismal first season with the Hurricanes.

Darling was brought in on a four-year deal paying him north of $4 million per season but poor preparation for the season saw him splitting time with the now-departed Cam Ward — the man Darling was supposed to replace. 

Petr Mrazek, who was signed on July 1 to promote some healthy competition for the starter’s crease, will take over as the No. 1.

“It’s a setback, no doubt. But that’s why we got Petr in here, too,” said Brind’Amour via the News and Observer, who added Darling’s MRI showed nothing major. “It makes my decision a lot easier on who we’re going to throw out there to start on opening night. That part is done and hopefully he gets healthy and back to where he was.”

A good run from Mrazek could see him keep the job, even when Darling is healthy enough to return.

The Hurricanes wasted no time trying to solidify Mrazek’s backup, claiming Curtis McElhinney off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Curtis is a proven NHL goaltender,” said Canes general manager Don Waddell. “Scott Darling is dealing with an injury and we see this as an opportunity to solidify our depth at the position.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

‘Concern’ after Hurricanes’ Scott Darling suffers lower-body injury

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It’s going to be a tense next 24 hours in Carolina.

Starting goalie Scott Darling left Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators with a lower-body injury and did not return.

Darling wasn’t having the best of days before picking up the knock, allowing three goals on 20 shots.

He had been very good in his previous outing, allowing just one goal on 28 shots in a 4-1 win against the same Preds team last Tuesday.

Last week, Darling made the declaration that he would be “the guy this year that I was signed to be for this team,” in an interview with NHL.com.

In the revealing story, Darling said he dropped nearly 30 pounds over the offseason after what he described as a “rough year.”

“It was a lonely, kind of depressing year,” Darling told the NHL’s Dan Rosen.

Darling admitted to not working out last summer, not long after signing a four-year deal worth $16.6 million with the Hurricanes as a free agent.

The result was an awful first season in Carolina. Darling started 40 games and had a dreadful .888 save percentage to go along with a 13-21-7 record.

Darling was supposed to be the successor to Cam Ward. Instead, Ward played more games and was the superior goalie, although not by much.

Ward is now gone, and Petr Mrazek, who took the place of Darling on Sunday after the injury, is the backup — although it may be more of a 1A, 1B sort of deal.

Either way, given the summer and the renewed focus, there was hope among the Hurricanes’ fan base that Darling could live up to his potential after reinventing himself after last season.

Now, they’ll be hoping he’s not sidelined that long.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck