New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov made his second consecutive start on Monday night in Philadelphia, and although the prior game was back on Jan. 28, Varly continued his strong play, stopping 25 of 26 shots to secure a 2-1 Islanders win over the Flyers.
Over his last three games, Varlamov has a minuscule 1.31. Goals Against Average (GAA) and has stopped 106 of 110 shots on goal, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 before the break and taking a hard-luck 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators despite stopping 36 of 38 shots.
As anticipated, the strength of the Islanders team has been their goaltending tandem, arguably the best in the league. The question is whether GM Lou Lamoriello would entertain selling high on Varlamov at the deadline, not based on where the team is in the standings, but rather what the return could be from a playoff team looking to solidify or improve their goaltending situation ahead of the post-season. Varlamov is currently seventh in the league in saver percentage (.920%), which is better than perennial Vezina favorites Juuse Saros, Igor Shesterkin, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
While we wait to see how this all plays out, Varlamov has expressed a desire to stay with the organization, and an extension, at a reduced salary, would follow the Lamoriello blueprint. While an argument can be made that if the Islanders were to make a playoff push, it would be because Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin are playing at the top of their game, the idea of the Islanders flipping Varlamov for a first-round pick must be somewhat enticing for Lamoriello after trading yet another first-rounder to Vancouver in the Bo Horvat deal.
Depending on whether or not the pick falls in the Top-12 will determine if the Islanders go without making a first-round selection for the fourth consecutive year. Last week, Mike P. Johnson of NHL Network talked about the L.A. Kings being a potential fit for the 34-year-old netminder. Other potential suitors could emerge in the next few weeks as well, and Varlamov could be the top goaltender available, one with a proven playoff pedigree.
Of course, it all depends on if Lamoriello would entertain moving Varlamov under any circumstances. Even if the team falls back in the playoff race, he could decide that trading Varly is not in the best interests of the team if he plans to extend him and keep him working alongside Sorokin next season.
Organizationally, the Isles are thin at the position, with Cory Schneider the only goaltender at Bridgeport with NHL experience, and Jacob Skarek doesn't appear ready. But if the Islanders were to recall Schneider, his workload during the final month of an NHL season would be limited, and Sorokin has already shown the ability to be a workhorse when Varlamov has missed time due to injury.
Further, if the Islanders made the playoffs, Sorokin would be the guy in the net, and Varlamov would be on the bench, unlikely to take his place. That could factor in the determination as to just how much of a loss it would be not to have Varlamov with the team the final month of the season, which may or may not result in a playoff berth.