It appears the New York Islanders have decided that keeping the tandem of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov together next season is what is best for the organization - and for good reason. Fans understand just how vital goaltending is for a team that struggled to score goals last season and has yet to add offense this off-season.
For two seasons, Islanders fans have known just how good the Russian goaltending duo is in net, but it appears hockey fans around the NHL have taken notice too.
JFreshHockey is conducting his off-season surveys and asked fans to rank NHL goaltenders on a scale from 1 to 5. After 2,219 entries, Sorokin earned the 7th highest goalie rank at 3.9 and Varlamov was T.20th with a score of 2.7.
When the average rating of the starter (Sorokin) and backup (Varlamov) was taken, the Islanders goalies had the highest average score at 3.3, narrowly edging out the New York Rangers' new combination of Igor Shesterkin and Jaro Halak. The Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning finished third and fourth.
Varlamov was signed in 2019 to replace Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner and formed a strong pair with Thomas Greiss as the organization awaited Sorokin's arrival to North America. GM Lou Lamoriello called his relationship with Sorokin a "fringe benefit" at the time of the signing, but spoke to Varlamov's value as a mentor at last season's trade deadline.
"There’s no question that Varly certainly got a lot of attention, but he’s very important to our team. In my opinion, he’s very important to the growth and maturity (of) Ilya Sorokin. Everybody is always looking for goaltenders. You don’t give up a goaltender to make another position better and make a bigger hole."- Lou Lamoriello
Varlamov missed training camp. and started just 29 games last season and ceded the No.1 role to Sorokin who posted seven shutouts and a 2.40 GAA while starting 52 games in his second NHL season. While the 26-year-old is capable of playing as much if not more games in 2022-23, it is likely head coach Lane Lambert's to have a more reasonable split provided both are healthy. Each night, Lambert will have the luxury of knowing he can't make a bad choice.
The way their relationship has forged and how Sorokin, a 2014 3rd round pick, has ascended to the top spot was the best-case scenario when Varlamov signed in 2019. The two work out together, laugh together, and push the other to be better. Varlamov's presence has helped Sorokin adjust to the NHL and have a level of comfort he otherwise would not have had.
They are each other's biggest fans and have the chance to be even better than they were last season.
The Islanders will need them to be.