Varlamov Starts Over in Colorado.

Given up by the Capitals, goaltender Semyon Varlamov gets a fresh start with the Colorado Avalanche.

Hoping to prove himself in Colorado.

Back on July 1st, the Colorado Avalanche shipped their first round pick and a second or third rounder in 2012 to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

The Avs had previously shipped out former starter Craig Anderson to the Ottawa Senators in February and looked to Varlamov to address their need for a quality starting goaltender.

Varlamov, 23, was a former first round pick of the Capitals and  at one point was earmarked to become their starting netminder following two solid post-season performances in 2009 and 2010, but groin and knee injuries throughout 2010-11 forced him to miss 27 games, resulting in his losing the starter’s role to Michal Neuvirth.

A restricted free agent last summer, Varlamov and the Capitals were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, and with Neuvirth and promising Braden Holtby in their system, it was apparent he no longer had a future with the Capitals, who signed former Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million deal soon after dealing Varlamov to the Avalanche.

Avs management wasted little time re-signing Varlamov to a three-year, $8.5 million contract, and while they also signed veteran J.S. Giguere, made no secret the starter’s job would belong to the young Russian. Giguere can help him fine tune his game, as well as ensure he’s not overworked thus risking reaggrevating his old injury problems.

The Avalanche had been interested in Varlamov for some time, and it’s easy to understand why.

Despite his limited regular season appearance (59 games over three seasons with the Caps) his stats had shown consistent improvement. Though his record for last season was 11-9-5, Varlamov’s GAA was a solid 2.23 and his save percentage a strong .924, both of which were career bests.

The only areas of concern were, of course, his injury history and his aggressive style, the latter aggravating the former. When healthy, however, there’s little doubt Varlamov’s a very talented young goalie with considerable potential to become one of the best in the NHL.

His youth, ability and potential are what the Avs believe will make him a long-term fixture with their rebuilding roster.

Varlamov’s acqusition, however, wasn’t exactly received with overwhelming joy among Avs fans, who appeared split over the decision to part with a 2012 first round pick, plus a second or third, the thinking being that the Avs may have traded away another potentially high first rounder.

But as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun recently noted, the Avs already possess promising young talent from previous drafts (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog) and from trades (Erik Johnson), and it makes no sense to bash management for dealing away a first and potentially second rounder for a former first rounder who has already demonstrated considerable promise at the NHL level.

Early into this season, they’re getting their money’s worth, as Varlamov went 3-1-0 in his first four games, with a 2.16 GAA, a sparkling .938 SP, and one shutout.

He was solid in his first game, a 3-0 loss to Detroit, as well as in his 3-2 shootout victory over Columbus, and outstanding in his 1-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. He had a shakier performance in a 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens, but closed the door when it counted, stoning the Habs in the shootout to clinch the victory.

Of course, it’s still very early in this season, and a lot can happen between now and season’s end in April, but Varlamov’ promising start in Colorado suggests he’s poised to establish himself as an upper echelon NHL starting goaltender.

1 Comment

  1. I picked up Varlamov with the last pick in my fantasy draft and he’s been great picking up the slack of my other goalies.