One of the NY Islanders' most significant strengths in the Lou Lamoriello era has been their goaltending. The Hall-of-Fame GM is traditionally known to build his teams from the net out and has kept that same principle in place with the Islanders. It started with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss and has transitioned to Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov. The latter two have been ranked as the NHL's best goaltending tandem headed into the 2022-23 season.
Recently, there's been some speculation (again) as to whether or not Lamoriello will trade Varlamov, the 34-year-old who reportedly drew interest from the Vegas Golden Knights back at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Unfortunately for Kelly McCrimmon and the Golden Knights, Vegas will be without Lehner, their No.1 goaltender, for the entire 2022-23 season. Once the injury was announced, there was the general wonder as to whether or not McCrimmon would circle back to Lamoriello regarding his interest in Varlamov. And although that could still happen, it feels unlikely Lamoriello will want to split up his goaltending tandem.
TSN's Travis Yost broke down each NHL team's goaltending tandem by tiers. One of his observations while breaking down each pair was that NHL teams are finding more value in net outside of North America, noting the "increased European imports" and coincidentally both Islander goaltenders hail from Russia.
Sorokin and Varlamov fall in Yost's first tier and for measurement, Yost "consider(s) a goaltender’s stop rates and goals saved above expectations, which allows us to adjust for both shot volume and quality of shots faced."
"I would say this is the best platoon in hockey. Ilya Sorokin is one of the league’s best goaltenders and will get the majority of starts, but Semyon Varlamov’s presence on this roster gives Lane Lambert plenty of optionality when dealing with the schedule and managing rest. Varlamov played 31 games last year and stopped 91.2 percent of shots faced. Considering how many teams around the league are still searching for one goaltender, the Islanders having two rostered is an impressive luxury."- Travis Yost
Sorokin and Varlamov are among elite company in Yost's goaltending depth ranks. Naturally, current Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin and newly signed Jaroslav Halak are also in tier one, as well as Nashville's Jusse Saros and Kevin Lankinen, Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck and David Rittich, and Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliot. The difference between the Islanders tandem and the rest, however, is that most of the other teams listed are carried by their starter such as Hellebuyck or Vasilevskiy, whereas both Sorokin and Varlamov can be in the same conversation as a starting goaltender.
An "impressive luxury" is well stated. The Islanders traditionally don't score the most goals around the league and 2021-22 aside, their defense is historically strong. It likely serves Lamoriello best to hang onto Varlamov ($5 million AAV) for the last year of his contract while the Isles have aspirations to get back into the playoffs and make another deep run.