Off-Season Targets: Semyon Varlamov

Off-Season Targets: Semyon Varlamov

Oilers

Off-Season Targets: Semyon Varlamov

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Ken Holland has no attachment to anyone under contract with the Edmonton Oilers, and that includes his overpaid goaltender. Mikko Koskinen wasn’t a bust in his first year in North America, but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Koskinen was decent, more average than anything, but he shouldn’t have been given $4,500,000 per on a new three-year deal.

Holland knows goaltending, outside of the 2016-17 season, has been an issue for the Oilers. Koskinen didn’t prove one way or the other that he was the answer in 2018-19 and as a result, Holland is going to market. He’s specifically mentioned goaltending as an area of need, and has mentioned dipping into the free agent pool this July.

It’s not the deepest class, but there are some solid 1A/1B type goalies that will be looking for a new home this summer. Chief among them is Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov.

Why Is He Out There?:

After playing in 51 games and posting a .920 save percentage, helping guide the Avalanche to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Varlamov was challenged in a big way last summer. Knowing that his contract was up after the 2018-19 season, the Avs traded for Washington’s Philipp Grubauer, who promptly signed with the organization and entered camp in a platoon with Varlamov.

After playing 51 games the season before, Varlamov’s time didn’t exactly plummet. He appeared in 49 games this past season and went 20-19-9. The issue? After posting a .920 save percentage in ’17-18, Varlamov’s numbers dropped. He managed just a .909 save percentage this past season and struggled at times.

Grubauer took over down the stretch and helped push Colorado into the playoffs. He got the reigns in the postseason, and helped the Avs reach Game 7 of the second round against San Jose. It’s Grubauer’s net now, plain and simple.

Instead of retaining Varlamov as an expensive backup, Colorado is poised to let him walk as a free agent, instead investing the dollars in depth scoring and some defensive help.

What Does He do Well?:

Varlamov has been consistently inconsistent throughout the course of his career. After being traded from Washington to Colorado following the 2010-11 season, Varlamov took over as the starting goaltender for the Avs. He’d post three seasons with the club of .920 save percentages or higher, but also suffered seasons of .898 (2016-17), .903 (2012-13) and .909 (2018-19).

Some years, like 2017-18, Varlamov was a huge reason why the Avalanche had success. Other years, like 2012-13 and 2016-17, he was a big part of the problem for one of the NHL’s worst teams.

When he’s on his game, Varlamov can be a dominant force in this league. Just look back to 2017-18, where he locked in down the stretch and helped push Colorado over the finish line and into the playoffs. He’s got high-end talent and can play at a high level for a sustained period of time. That makes him a rare talent in this year’s free agent market.

Varlamov can handle a steady workload, and can no doubt still handle 40-45 starts a season. Combine his ability to handle a big workload with his talent, and you have the perfect 1A/1B kind of goalie.

Here’s a look at Varlamov’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.

Assets:

Owns a big frame, which he uses effectively to cover a lot of net. Has fast reflexes and a good glove hand, and he moves well in the crease. Displays the calm demeanor required to thrive between the pipes in the NHL.

Flaws:

Has had off-ice issues, as well as injury troubles, so he is not as reliable as most upper-echelon starting goaltenders. Is not great at communicating with his defenders, or when handling the puck himself.

Career Potential:

Quality goaltender, when healthy.

Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:

I think you can make a pretty good argument that Varlamov, at worst, is a 1B goaltender in the NHL. He can be a starter in this league when at his best, and serviceable if not. He’s a proven NHL goaltender and should be able to come to a team and give them about 40 starts. He’s perfect for a platoon, which I think is what Edmonton is looking for right now.

With the Oilers, he’d come to camp with a real shot at winning the starting job over Koskinen. Although the big Finn is being paid $4,500,000 per season, I think it’s fair to say Varlamov is actually better.

What Will He Cost?:

Varlamov is coming off of a five-year deal that paid him $5,900,000 per season with the Avs. He’s likely going to make less this time around, as he’s not going to be signing this contract as a team’s number one netminder and coming off of a playoff appearance in which he starred.

I think Varlamov, at 31, can still get a multi-year deal. Would, say, two years at $3,500,000 scare teams away? Would it scare the Oilers away? I think that’s likely on the low end of what he will cost this summer.

Closing Argument:

Varlamov is, in my opinion, the best goaltender on the market that the Oilers have a real shot at signing. He’s a proven NHL option who has a high talent level and who has helped push his team into the playoffs within the last two years.

He’s not a typical backup, no, Varlamov is a 1A/1B kind of option for the Oilers. If Holland truly wants to lock up the goaltending position and get someone that can really push Koskinen, then he’d be wise to check in with Varlamov as we approach July 1st.

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