It’s highly unlikely that the New York Islanders will be parting ways with veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov and his $5 million cap hit before the start of the 2022-23 season. Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had opportunities to move Varlamov at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline and during the 2022 NHL Draft, but teams who needed goaltending addressed that need already.
The Toronto Maple Leafs brought in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. The Edmonton Oilers brought in Jack Campbell. The Colorado Avalanche traded for Alexandar Georgiev, and the Washington Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper–to name a few.
But now there is a team that could add a netminder due to an injury to their starter, and that is the Vegas Golden Knights.
Veteran netminder Robin Lehner has struggled to stay healthy, and late last week, his 2022-23 season ended before it began as he had season-ending hip surgery.
Brossoit had offseason surgery and could start the season on Injury Reserve, meaning a Logan Thompson-Michael Hutchinson tandem could be in order–not ideal–which is where Semyon Varlamov comes into play.
Vegas was a team during the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline that inquired about Varlamov, but given Thompson’s play, they decided to run with him while Lehner was out with a different injury.
But now, with Lehner heading to LTIR, Vegas has $5 million to play with, the exact amount Varlamov would cost them. Not to mention, if Brossoit goes on LTIR, Vegas would have $7.32 million in space.
The New York Islanders could move Varlamov to the Vegas Golden Knights straight up, clearing $5 million off their books and go another route into finding a netminder. Or the Islanders could get Laurent Brossoit and his $2.325 million cap hit, saving the Islanders $2.675 million in space.
But again, with Brossoit’s injury, does that make much sense?
It’s no question that Ilya Sorokin is the starting netminder for the New York Islanders entering the 2022-23 season and although Varlamov has been a great help to him and the team, the Islanders are trying to shed cap space to sign Nazem Kadri, amongst other moves currently in the dark.
Any cap space that can be created is beneficial.
Another move the Islanders could make with Vegas is trading Semyon Varlamov for 23-year-old defenseman Nicholas Hague and a mid-round pick.
Hague is a restricted free agent, so his rights will be traded. In late June, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News first reported that at least two Eastern Conference teams were calling the Golden Knights about Nicolas Hague.
Now, the New York Islanders did acquire 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens at the 2022 NHL Draft but are still in need of one more defenseman, preferably a left-handed defenseman, if Robin Salo is not ready for an everyday role.
Hague is left-handed.
Per Owen Krepps of Vegas Hockey Now, Hague frequently played on Vegas’ top defensive pair with Alex Pietrangelo. In 142 games, Hague has 10 goals, 32 assists, and 42 points.
The 6’6 defenseman missed 30 games with an injury but still put up those respectable point totals and recorded 80 blocks.
He has slowly but surely been developing his game, and the Golden Knights have high hopes for him as their highest remaining draft pick from their first-ever draft in 2017.
As Krepps pointed out in his piece about trading Hague, Vegas does have a young defenseman rostered in 25-year-old Zach Whitecloud. Even the great Shea Theodore is still just 26 years old.
Vegas also has a few prospects ready in the pipeline:
Kaedan Korczak- 21
Lukas Cormier- 20
Daniil Miromanov- 25
Zack Hayes- 23
Brayden Pachal- 22
Now, with the cap space that Brossoit’s injury could create, Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon could sign Hague and move on.
But he has other, cheaper options.
San Jose Sharks beat reporter Sheng Peng wrote a story a few days ago regarding their goaltending situation, as they have three NHL quality netminders and are likely moving one of them out.
Kaapo Kahkonen, who the San Jose Sharks acquired at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline from the Minnesota Wild, signed a two-year extension this summer. The 26-year-old is expected to be the starter for San Jose per Peng.
That means either Adin Hill or James Reimer are on their way out, both with one year remaining on their respective deals.
26-year-old Adin Hill was not particularly good in 2021-22, with a .906 SV% and a 2.66 GAA. He carries a cap hit of $2.175 million. He is a bit of a question mark but would be cheap.
James Reimer, 34, is much less of a question mark due to his career numbers, with a slight increase in price at $2.52 million. The Manitoba native also struggled in 2021-22, posting a 2.92 GAA with a .911 SV% in 48 games played.
The Sharks would like a second-round pick for Reimer, per Peng.
So the Islanders could save $2.82 million by acquiring Hill or $2.48 million by taking on Reimer.
Every penny counts.
It’s no secret that the New York Islanders need to make a trade if they are bringing in talent via free agency or via a trade or both. The likely players to be moved are Josh Bailey and his $5 million AAV or Anthony Beauvillier at $4.15 million.
But with Vegas’s goaltending question marks and San Jose having too many, the Islanders could benefit from the current situation.
Now Vegas could just trade with San Jose, not needing the Islanders to be involved at all. That is an option, but a healthy Varlamov is still a capable no. 1 in the NHL and, backed by his mentoring ability, could do wonders for Logan Thompson.