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Arnold: Hard to See Semyon Varlamov Being Traded for Cap Space



New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The odds of the New York Islanders trading Semyon Varlamov are slim to none.

Nothing is ever impossible, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything to suggest that trading Varlamov would make sense for the Islanders. Confused? Let’s backtrack for a second then.

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On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Craig Custance briefly mentioned in a lengthy offseason piece that a source suggested Semyon Varlamov could be moved as a way for the Islanders to create some more cap space.

The Islanders, like many other teams this offseason are in a precarious cap situation. They have just $8.9 million to work with as they try to re-sign several RFAs and UFAs, including Mat Barzal, Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock.

Varlamov finished the first year of a four-year, $20 million contract that carries a $5.5 million AAV, so financially there is some rationale as to why someone would think the Islanders could trade him to clear cap space.

However, Varlamov’s value to the Islanders outweighs the potential cap space moving him would create. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello had been high on Semyon Varlamov even before the Islanders signed him last offseason and the expectation is that he will serve as a mentor to prospect Ilya Sorokin, who will play his first pro season in North America next year.

Sorokin was signed earlier this summer and will likely serve as the Islanders backup whenever the new NHL season starts.

The two have a preexisting relationship, having known each other for three years and at one point sharing the same North American agent. “You have a young man with one year left and potentially coming over the next year with a language barrier and now having someone in the same position to possibly look up to,” Lamoriello told reporters last year after Varlamov was signed.

Aside from that Semyon Varlamov established his place as the Islanders go-to goaltender during the postseason. Varlamov started in all but two games during the Islanders run to the Eastern Conference Finals. He posted a .921 save percentage and a 2.14 goals-against average in 20 playoff games.

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Thomas Greiss has had a memorable run with the Islanders and was on the last year of a three-year deal this past season and likely played his final game as a member of the organization last month. Lamoriello appeared to indicate as much during an end of season interview with reporters earlier this week.

“Our goaltending situation is pretty obvious,” he said during a Zoom call on Tuesday.

With the current state of the NHL and the world, you can never rule anything out completely, but when you examine the idea of trading Varlamov more closely it doesn’t make much sense.