New York Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov has put forth a strong bounce-back 2022-23 season after a nightmarish 2021-22 campaign.
Varlamov, whose starts have been scarce this season with just 20 through 63 games, has shown well with a .914 SV% and a 2.68 GAA behind a shaky defensive team.
Although his role with New York has changed throughout his four-year contract, going from the starter to splitting the crease with Iyla Sorokin to now being a true backup, head coach Lane Lambert continues to speak on his professionalism.
“It’s a challenge right now for Varlamov, having not played. There’s no question about it,” Lambert said back on Friday morning. “But again, I reach back and lean back on his professionalism and his ability to prepare. So we’re counting on that.”
After backing up the last three games, Varlamov was back in between the pipes for the Islanders Sunday night affair against the Winnipeg Jets and played lights out, stopping all 23 shots that came his way for his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 win.
Following the game, Newsday’s Andrew Gross spoke with Varlamov about his future, with the NHL Trade Deadline just four days away.
“Do I want to be traded? Absolutely not,” Semyon Varlamov said. “I want to stay with this team. I love this team. I want to stay here and re-sign.”
“But it’s out of my control.”
With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline looming, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello could, at the very least, get a second-round pick for his veteran netminder, with a first not off the table.
Varlamov could be the clear-cut number-one netminder for a few playoff teams, like the Los Angeles Kings or the Seattle Kraken. Throw in the Buffalo Sabres and even the Pittsburgh Penguins as other teams where he could give the starting netminder a run for their money.
Varlamov has a modified no-trade clause, which came into play last season. Per an NHL source, there were trades in place that would have given the Islanders a first-round pick, but Varlamov refused to waive.
Last year was different. Varlamov had a year remaining on his deal, which meant team control, which usually means a spike in return.
However, Varlamov is a free agent at the end of the season, so he’s a rental for whatever team is acquiring him.
If Varlamov wants to stay, it’s very simple.
With Bo Horvat’s new extension, which carries an $8.5 million average annual value, the Islanders, as of now, only have $6.8 million in projected cap space following the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, per CapFriendly.
Outside of Varlamov, the Islanders have to decide what they are doing with unrestricted free agents Scott Mayfield, Zach Parise & Hudson Fasching, along with restricted free agents Oliver Wahlstrom, Samuel Bolduc, and Parker Wotherspoon.
If Varlamov wants to return and serve as the backup for Sorokin, he certainly can do so, but it will come with a significant pay cut. With the amount he will be playing in the future, as a backup, two-to-three years at $2.5 million per seems fair, which would be a 50 percent pay cut from his current contract.
To be a starter, Varlamov could get close to $5 million a year, if not more, for a short-term deal.
The question becomes, does Varlamov want to start, or is he satisfied at this point of his career being a backup?
He’s been critical for Sorokin, helping him assimilate into the North American and NHL ways of life. They’ve become great friends, and now Sorokin has taken the reigns as the number one netminder, which everyone knew was coming.
If Semyon Varlamov wants to remain with Sorokin and New York going forward, with that pay cut, then it makes the most sense for general manager Lou Lamoriello to get that done before the trade deadline, as we saw with Parise and Cal Clutterbuck last season.
The Islanders are short on assets and draft capital and are not in a situation to allow players to walk for free, players that voice what they want to say.
The organization has been down that path once before and missed out on a tremendous amount of assets.
Here’s our story about how the Islanders could trade Varlamov and sign him in the offseason instead: