On July 1, 2019, the NY Islanders signed free agent Semyon Varlamov to a four-year deal worth $20 million dollars. Prior to coming to the Islanders, Varlamov played for the Colorado Avalanche from 2011-2018 seeing career highs and lows in his eight-year duration. Varlamov proved to be an excellent starting goaltender in his first few seasons with the Islanders, but times have changed with Ilya Sorokin claiming the Islanders' crease.
NY Islanders 2022-23 player preview: Semyon Varlamov
Unless your name was Sorokin, Noah Dobson, or Brock Nelson, nobody played really well for the Islanders in 2021-22. Varlamov finished with 10 wins, and 17 losses in just 29 games started, accruing a .911 SV% and 2.91 GAA. An injury derailed the start of the Samara, USSR native's season, and he was never quite able to get his feet under him starting behind the eight-ball.
"That’s the balance. We’re not in a position to do anybody any favors right now. It’s a balance of trying to get Varly to catch up. He missed training camp. You’ve seen it not only in goaltending but almost every position — when people miss training camp, it is hard to catch up as the season goes along. But they do."- Barry Trotz
One major change we witnessed this past season was the emergence of Sorokin as the new number one goaltender. Sorokin started a whopping 52 games and finished the season with 26 wins and 18 losses. For a goalie only going into his third NHL season, he's already a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy in 2022-23.
Sorokin's emergence will lead to less time in net for Varlamov than he saw in his first two season's but it remains to be seen what the actual game distribution with be. With Lane Lambert at the helm, the Islanders could maintain close to a 50-50 split or play the hot hand. Another possibility is that Sorokin takes a majority of starts and plays around 50-55 games if Varlamov doesn't impress.
It's completely possible, if not probable, for Varlamov to get back on track this season. He is a proven goaltender who had a rough season for a team that had an even rougher one. Varlamov is entering the final year of his contract and, at a minimum, will be playing for a new deal, whether that is with the Isles or another team where he can once again be the starter.
The long-term plan has always been for Varlamov to be in this position for the 2022-23 season, and Sorokin being projected among the top goaltenders should not come as a surprise to Varlamov as he assumes a new role at this stage in his career.
Varlamov should be able to recover from his 2021-22 season heading into the new season healthy. A revitalized and re-energized Varly as a 1A to Sorokin should receive somewhere between 25-35 starts with the potential to receive a few more. Varlamov isn't far removed from being the first goaltender in Islanders' history to record back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs and will continue to be a reason why the Isles have one of the best established net presences in the NHL.