Islanders: 3 Likely Free Agent Destinations for Semyon Varlamov

The Hockey Writers

There is no reason for Semyon Varlamov to re-sign with the New York Islanders this summer. He is now the clear backup to Ilya Sorokin, but the veteran still has lots to give. For the last two seasons, there’s been talk about him being traded, but nothing came of it. Instead, the Islanders kept him around as an overpaid backup who could provide great starts when called upon.

A goaltender like Sorokin doesn’t need much support, and the Islanders will likely be looking for a new backup who costs $1-$1.5 million AAV to save some much-needed cap space. While Varlamov, now 35 years old, will be looking for a new team where he can get some more playing time. Here are three teams that will be in the mix for his services.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins will see some roster changes this offseason. The front office was already dealt with, and the core group of veterans still have a few years left before an inevitable rebuild. This means that the window to win with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang is now. As the team didn’t seem very impressed with the inconsistency of Tristan Jarry and his inability to stay healthy, they may be looking for a change in net.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Jarry is without a contract, and Varlamov would fit the Penguins’ timetable to win. The Islanders’ goalie has been about as consistent as anyone can get in the NHL. In 14 seasons, he’s only finished with a save percentage (SV%) below .900 once (.898) and only finished with a SV% under .910 five times (twice at .909). This former Vezina Trophy nominee has given New York four great years, and even though his playing time has gone down, his ability to still offer 40-45 games of quality starts hasn’t faded.

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators will be active in the free-agent goalie market this offseason, as they will not be bringing Cam Talbot back. The two parties couldn’t agree on a term. Part of that is because of their young goalies on the rise, but another part must have been due to his below-average numbers. The Senators have Anton Forsberg and Mads Sogaard, but it wouldn’t hurt to give Sogaard another year or so in the American Hockey League (AHL).

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What Varlamov can provide, in terms of experience, games, and quality performances, would be perfect alongside Forsberg next season. The Senators made strides toward a playoff return but need more from their goaltenders. Varlamov also won’t cost any more than Talbot did this season.

Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings ranked 22nd in goals against this season, and it would have been a lot worse if Ville Husso or Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t have hot streaks. Overall, the team needs more consistent goaltending, and Husso needs some support. The team SV% was .894, led by their starter with a .896 SV%. Goaltending is what ultimately sunk the team after staying in the playoff race all season.

Ville Husso Detroit Red Wings
Ville Husso, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Husso is still under contract, the Red Wings have a lot of cap space available to spend on areas of need. Goaltending stands out as Nedeljkovic won’t be back, and Magnus Hellberg is also a free agent. Detroit can afford to pay Varlamov higher than other potential suitors and also offer him a deal longer than 1-2 years. This will give the organization ample time to evaluate Husso and allow Sebastian Cossa to develop (from “Red Wings goalie pipeline: Can Ville Husso and Sebastian Cossa be the future?” The Athletic, May 1, 2023).

Related: Islanders: 3 Likely Free Agent Destinations for Scott Mayfield

It will be interesting who signs Varlamov, as he will be a strong addition to any team in need of support in net. He still has some good years in front of him, and although the goalie market will be fairly strong this offseason, he provides an element that few others can offer.

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