With the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline this Monday, the New York Islanders don’t have that much time to decide what they are going to do. Are they going to sell? Are they going to try and make a push? In my trade deadline preview, I said that the Islanders should just give up on this season and sell. Despite their recent run, they are still 19 points off of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
An important/possible trade chip for them is Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov has seen his playing time reduced dramatically with the emergence of Ilya Sorokin. Despite this, he is still a competent player who could make a difference on a team looking for some goaltending help. He has the stats, the experience and the leadership that playoff teams find valuable.
Varlamov signed with the Isles as a free agent before the 2019-2020 season. In his first season, he became the primary goaltender by starting 39 games (Thomas Griess, the other goaltender, started 29 games).
In his second season, he remained the primary goaltender by starting 35 games. This time, however, things were a little different. Instead of splitting time with the veteran Griess, he was acting as a mentor for the young Sorokin. It was Sorokin’s first season, and he platooned with Varlamov to gain experience and get accustomed to the NHL. Toward the end of the season, Sorokin really started to prove his worth.
This season, head coach Barry Trotz has given the keys to Sorokin, making him the new primary goaltender. As a result, Varlamov’s playing time has waned. So far this season, he has only started 18 games. With his role reduced and a year left on his contract, the time may have arrived to trade him. Besides, the Isles could always call up Jakub Skarek, the 22-year-old goaltender from the Bridgeport Islanders in the AHL.
Even with a secondary role this season Varlamov has put up decent numbers. In 20 games (18 starts), he has a .912 save percentage with a 2.85 goals-against average. While his record is not the prettiest at 4-12, the Isles have had a mediocre offense for most of the season and Varlamov has been unlucky. For example, Varlamov started against the Washington Capitals this past Tuesday night. He gave up three goals in regulation but the Isles were able to match that. The game went to a shootout that lasted eight rounds, with the Isles struggling to score and Varlamov holding his own. The Islanders lost that game 4-3.
However, Varlamov has the experience that playoff teams look for in their acquisitions. He turns 34 in April and has a 14-year career that spans stints with the Colorado Avalanche and the Capitals, as well as the Islanders. In his eight years in Colorado, he averaged a .915 SV% with a 2.72 GAA. In his tenure so far with the Islanders, despite being a smaller sample size, he has a .919 SV% with a 2.45 GAA.
Underneath these statistics are playoff-specific statistics. Not only does Varlamov have general NHL experience but he also has NHL playoff experience. In 60 playoff games (58 starts) across his three teams, he has a 31-27 record with a .919 SV%, a 2.42 GAA and four shutouts.
Can the Islanders Pull Off a Trade?
The short answer: yes.
Varlamov only has a year left on his contract so it is worth it for the Isles to consider trading him. With so much space between them and a playoff spot, it is better that they sell and try to get as many valuable assets as they can. Any contending team looking for some help between the posts should try to take a swing at Varlamov.
One of the teams that come to mind is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their goaltending situation is…less than ideal. Jack Campbell has just picked up an injury while backup ‘tender Petr Mrazek has been average. With the deadline coming up and almost a guaranteed playoff spot, the Maple Leafs may be forced to make a trade to improve their situation. Someone like Varlamov could help shore up their goaltending corps. Additionally, he may fare better (and may be luckier) on a better offensive team.
Varlamov is an experienced goaltender who the Isles could trade before the upcoming deadline. While his stats aren’t stellar, he has the experience that playoff teams look for. He has played in the playoffs before and, despite not having a Stanley Cup to his name, has shown up when his team has needed him the most.
With one year left on his contract and the playoffs looking unattainable for the Islanders, the time is now to trade Varlamov. Despite what he has done for the Isles in his short tenure there, he could net a solid return from a team in need of his services. It’s never easy to let players go, but if the right call comes in for the tenured veteran then the Isles should take it.