Alex Ovechkin had barely gotten the Chalice over his head before we got some pretty tasty rumors about the Westside Club de Hockey. And they certainly bring some excitement and questions, and there’s nothing we love than the two of those together.
So let’s start with Scott Powers, who hasn’t been alone in reporting that the Hawks have called the Carolina Hurricanes about Justin Faulk and Scott Darling. Elliote Friedman was also in on rumors that Darling could beat a hasty retreat to his beloved land of beef and deep dish. There’s some smoke here, so let’s talk about the fire (YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO IMAGINE THE FIRE…). Faulk is easy enough so let’s do that second.
The possibility of bringing Scott Darling home would simply have to mean that at best, the Hawks have no idea when Corey Crawford is going to be ready to play again, or if. The worst case is they know he won’t anytime soon…or again. If the Hawks are looking not just for a quality backup, but one that can step in and take the starting role and do a passable impression, then you know something is up with Crow. And if it’s Darling they’re talking about, that’s $4.1 million worth of goaltender you’d be bringing in and you wouldn’t be bringing in that kind of number to merely be a backstop.
Now, if you’re sitting there wondering to yourself, “Darling didn’t kind of blow his chance at being a starter?” well, I won’t necessarily tell you you’re wrong. What I will say is the Carolina doesn’t do any of its goaltenders any favors with the way they played, and Darling was never the type you’d want to perform miracles night after night. That said, unless they completely overhaul the defense, including mailing Brent Seabrook to Zanzibar with Jordan Oesterle or something, it’s highly unlikely the Hawks are going to be all that defensively sound either. And given how the forwards shake out, the Hawks might have to play an even more up-tempo style to match what the Penguins or Knights or Preds do. Which means you need more circus acts from your goalie, which is what got the Canes in this hole in the first place. Duncan Keith isn’t going to rediscover Norris form next year, though he can still be good. Erik Gustafsson is still not going to be able to spell “defense.” Whatever Forsling improves, it’s still going to be a learning curve.
The other nugget here is that Friedman suggests Darling could be had for Marian Hossa’s contract. Which…I mean I guess? The appeal for the Canes is that though they would gain about a million and a half in cap hit, in actual dollars they’d spend three million less given that Hossa’s salary is only $1 million. And I mean…sure? If they’re that desperate to lose Darling, but we’re still talking about a goalie who’s only had one bad season and I don’t know that there are many alternatives out there for them.
One would be Phillip Grubauer, but he could be a cheaper alternative for the Hawks as well, at least in terms of dollars. But the Caps would want actual assets in return for a promising goaltender who had a wonderful regular season and is just 26. He’s also RFA, so he that might lessen the assets needed to get him and also makes his salary cheaper. But Grubauer is going to want to at least have a chance to compete to start, and if Crow is ever going to play again (and this is how we should really start framing the discussion) he’s still going to slide right back into being the #1. But, as said, Grubauer is restricted so you can sign him for two years or whatever and tell him to just wait it out. And given when those two years are up Crow would be 35, perhaps he’s ready to take over then. But again, it’s a thin goalie market, and there will be plenty of teams calling about Grubs, which will only drive the price up.
As for Faulk, well, we’ve only been screaming for the Hawks to get him for like five years now. He might not solve everything but he solves a ton. He’s a right-handed puck mover you could play with Keith, or Murphy on his off-side, or Dahlstrom, or some other combos. He’s a real live power play QB and not one play-acting at it like Keith. He’s sound defensively as well. You could already see pairing him with Keith, leaving Murphy and Gustafsson to be ya-ha time on the second pairing and leaving Seabrook on a third pairing where he actually can still be useful given the right partner.
Of course, you can’t just HAVE Justin Faulk. The Canes are looking to cash in on this, and distressingly Powers says in his article the Hawks won’t move the #8 pick. WELL WHY THE FUCK NOT?! By the time whoever they take at #8 (it’s so going to be Tkachuk’s asshole son, the second one) is actually ready to contribute at the NHL level, everyone very well might be out of a job. While planning for the long term is nice in your life and maybe even mine (never tried it), this team doesn’t have a long-term. Two seasons from now when everyone is in their mid-30s or worse they’re going to suck and suck hard, and no amount of clever drafting is going to prevent that unless they really get some somewhere-over-the-rainbow luck happening. The #8 pick alone isn’t going to get you Faulk, but it might take the place of a body you don’t want to give up. I’m sure the names on Carolina’s list start with “Schmaltz, DeBrincat, and maybe even Sikura.” Anisimov isn’t going to get it done either, though man that would be wonderful.
I suppose if I squint you could justify losing Schmaltz if you thought Ejdsell was ready for primetime now, and if you thought Quenneville could disabuse himself from the notion that Anisimov is a #2 center in the Western Conference. Those seem like big, motherfuckin’ ifs.
But hey, at least the kettle is percolating over on Madison. We’ll see what the construction workers yelling at McDonough want.