Varlamov transitioned to the role as backup to Ilya Sorokin and was a true professional all season as he started a career-low 22 games, posting an 11-9-2 record with a 2.70 GAA and .913 save percentage. "This year, it’s been different for me. It is what it is. I spend more time practicing on the ice with the goalie coach. You have to when you don’t play every game or every other game, you have to make sure you stay in good shape," said Varlamov in January.
There was speculation all summer that Varlamov would be traded as a clear asset that could both bring back draft picks in return but also clear his $5M AAV salary at a time when the Islanders needed cap flexibility to improve their forward group. It never appeared to be a serious consideration for GM Lou Lamoriello, who consistently spoke of goaltending being the team's strength.
Ahead of the March trade deadline, the veteran goaltender let it be known through the media that not only did he not want to be traded, but he wanted to stay on Long Island past this season. “Do I want to be traded? Absolutely not,” Varlamov said. “I want to stay with this team. I love this team. I want to stay here and re-sign.”
If Varlamov wants to return, he knows it comes with a pay cut, but what about the term? With Sorokin entering the final year of his contract at $4M AAV and due for an extension, it will be interesting to see if the 35-year-old Varly would be brought back for anything more than 1 year at $2-2.5M. Anything more than that in AAV or term, and you will be paying more for the goalie tandem two years from now that the combined $9M they made this season.