Times have certainly changed now that most players who arrive on Long Island want to stay on Long Island.
The NY Islanders have lost countless players in seasons past to free agency whether they were a trade deadline acquisition or not. Now, exit meetings are taking place and as the pending unrestricted free agents clear their lockers to head home for the offseason, a number of players such as Zach Parise have openly stated they want to return only to the Islanders (unless he retires) next season. Included in that group of players that want to be back is goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
" I want to stay with the team," Varlamov said. "Nothing has changed... I have a good feeling about this team and about the future. I want to be a part of it."
Varlamov has come to the conclusion of his four-year contract that paid him a total of $20 million over the course of the last four seasons. He's mostly served as the Islanders' starter, helping them get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three out of four seasons and to the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning twice. However, it's now Ilya Sorokin's net as he's firmly planted his skates in the crease at UBS Arena, receiving the majority share of starts over the 35-year-old veteran, and although Varlamov knows that, the 15-year NHL veteran stated on Monday morning he still wants to return to the Islanders.
Since the beginning of the season, the Islanders were believed to have the best goaltending situation in the NHL. Not only did they have an All-Star in Sorokin, but Varlamov is viewed as one of the best "backup" goaltenders in the league. There's a reason for that.
Varlamov could probably be a starting goaltender on a handful of teams around the NHL, even at 35 years old. The belief was that Varlamov might want to look to explore that opportunity this summer seeing as Sorokin will continue to dominate the crease. However, he's expressed otherwise.
Sorokin and Varlamov are both on the record stating how strong their relationship is with each other. At this point in his career, Varlamov appears okay with starting 20-25 games a year and another shot at competing for a Stanley Cup as the Islanders surely are in no position for a rebuild.
"(Sorokin) is my good friend," Varlamov explained. "I've known him for a long time. We've had so much fun over the last couple of years playing together. It's always nice coming into the locker room and talk Russian, especially with him. We're on the same page with a lot of things like joking around or talking about the game. I had a lot of fun, especially playing with him."
Of course, nothing is set in stone and things could always change. The Islanders could probably offer Varlamov somewhere in the neighborhood of a two-year contract between $2-$2.5 million per year which would be more than fair for a backup goaltender playing less than 30 games. If not, you could expect Varlamov to test free agency.
In his career with the Islanders, Varlamov played in 135 games and accrued a 59-51-14 record with a 2.54 GAA and .917 SV%, and in the playoffs, he elevated his game to an 18-14 record with a 2.31 GAA and .922 SV% in 34 games.
The Islanders will have plenty of decisions to make this summer and Varlamov is an important one. They can't afford to overpay him in order with little to no cap space and other needs to fill. For both their sakes, the Islanders and Varlamov will need to come to a conclusion on a team friendly contract.