Chicago Blackhawks’ Best, Worst Summer Free Agent Adds Under Bowman

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Artemi Panarin
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Artemi Panarin /
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Best: Scott Darling

There are two guys on Bowman’s summer free agent signings list who stand out above everyone not named Panarin. We’ll get to the other guy shortly, but I’m giving the another “best” nod to recently departed goaltender Darling.

Darling’s story is well known, as his struggles with alcohol led to him sinking from a 2007 NHL Entry Draft choice by Phoenix to some little-known minor league hockey clubs. The Blackhawks inked Darling to a one-year deal in summer 2014 after some success with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

Needless to say, Darling really turned his life around. In addition to becoming the first Southern Professional Hockey League athlete to compete in an NHL game, he went on to be a critical part of Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup-winning team. If not for his efforts in the first-round series against Nashville, the Blackhawks may not have won their third championship in six years.

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Darling posted a 39-17-9 record in parts of three seasons in Chicago, most recently serving as backup to Corey Crawford in 2016-17. His success last season made clear he’d be seeking a starting job and more money on his next contract, so the Blackhawks moved Darling to Carolina this offseason.

Worst: 2011 as a whole

I’ll say 2011 was better than 2010 as far as summer free agency in Chicago went, but not by a whole lot.

Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Sean O’Donnell made up this true free agency class. And while you can have positive opinions about Carcillo (his off-ice work to help former NHLers) and Mayers (his work with Comcast SportsNet) since they stopped playing, there’s few positives that come with these four in their time skating for Chicago.

Chicago was the last stop in the careers of both Brunette and O’Donnell. They were both stopgaps for a team trying to rebuild on the fly. Brunette tallied 27 points in 78 regular-season games, while O’Donnell contributed seven point in 51 tilts.

Carcillo, whom the team signed again as a free agent in 2014, managed 11 points in 51 games across parts of two seasons while earning a pair of suspensions in excess of five games apiece. Carcillo suffered an injury during a play that netted him one of these bans, in early 2012, and his subsequent absence allowed Brandon Saad to grace the Blackhawks’ roster.

Mayers netted 17 points in 100 games with Chicago and is probably best remembered for going after Raffi Torres as revenge for the latter’s hit on Hossa during the 2012 postseason. He’s also remembered for being the first guy Jonathan Toews passed the Cup off to in 2013.

So … not much for tangible on-ice results. But at least there’s more memories attached to this group than the 2010 bunch.