The name Scott Darling is one Golden Knights fans will consistently hear between now and June as a possible option to be in net for Vegas’ inaugural season. I’m here to tell you it’s not going to happen, unless Vegas cheats.
Before we even get into why Darling won’t be under contract with the Blackhawks come June, let’s just play the game as if he were.
Take a quick peek at the Chicago Blackhawks roster as it pertains to the Expansion Draft. They have eight players with NMCs. EIGHT! Four forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie (Corey Crawford). In other words, they can either protect three forwards using the 7/3/1 method, or protect a single defenseman using the 8/1 method. Marcus Kruger, Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman, Andrew Desjardins, Dennis Rasmussen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Brian Campbell are just some of the names the Hawks have to choose from. Either method they choose, they are at the mercy of McPhee.
For those of you who have played fantasy sports, you understand the term positional scarcity. Those who don’t, let me explain. It means that players in a deeper pool of talent are not as valuable despite their higher skill, than those in a shallower pool. In fantasy football, that means TE Greg Olsen is more valuable than QB Ben Roethlisberger because there are way fewer quality tight ends than quarterbacks.
In the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, positional scarcity lies in skaters, not goalies. There will be upwards of 10 acceptable goalies of which McPhee and his staff will have the opportunity to either select or sign. He can only take three, likely keep two, and only start one. Meanwhile, he needs at least six playable defensemen and twelve forwards.
Scott Darling is good, but if he’s the selection off the Blackhawks, his value is limited. There’s a massive opportunity cost to skipping over the chance to get Panik, Kruger, or van Riemsdyk.
But all this is assuming Darling re-signs with the Hawks and is left exposed… which he won’t be.
Darling, who has been actively speaking about “getting his shot,” would be signing a contract on a team with a solid #1 and be guaranteeing his exposure to the Golden Knights. However, he would be doing so by signing a backup goalie contract, likely for much less than what he’d get going to a team expecting him to be the starter. So even if selected, which shouldn’t happen, he would either become the starter in Vegas or be flipped for assets making him the starter somewhere else, yet still be paid like a backup.
That is what I call, stupid, and unless his agent is a complete buffoon, he won’t sign another backup deal with Chicago.
So one way or the other, no Darling. Except, there might be one other way. A scenario that benefits Scott Darling, the Vegas Golden Knights, and majorly hurts the Chicago Blackhawks.
Say Darling does the right thing and enters the Expansion Draft as a UFA. If McPhee signs him during the three day window, he’s the representative from the Hawks. Bad idea, we already went over this. So, McPhee must wait. But, the Vegas GM has something not many teams have, money AND opportunity. McPhee must select three goalies in the draft, but should have plenty of suitors to spin them off to, and could be looking at a heap of young goaltenders to stash away and groom.
Darling wants to start, and more importantly, wants to be paid like it. McPhee wants someone else from the Hawks, but would also love the chance to utilize his three goalie slots to bring in a bunch of added assets (draft picks). So what if they conspire and “cheat” the system.
If you haven’t read my stuff on under the table deals, read, then come back and finish this article.
McPhee and Darling come to an agreement, but don’t sign the deal until free agency officially opens on July 1st. Vegas gets its goalie, still gets to take someone off the talent rich Chicago exposed list, and Darling gets his cash and his starter spot. Win, win, win, win, unless you are Stan Bowman.
It’s really the only thing that makes any sense, and of course, it’s illegal. But hey, rules were made to be broken… right?