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Golden Knights Trade Debate: Pursue Semyon Varlamov?

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Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders (Phot- NYI Hockey Now)

With little to nothing going on in the hockey world, come and delve into the armchair GM world as we look at the Vegas Golden Knight’s current roster.

The loss of Robin Lehner is substantial, no matter what your opinions of him. The Golden Knights will be without their top goaltender for the entirety of an 82+ game season. I am getting a sense that the Golden Knights will not patch the goalie position goal unless Logan Thompson falters, and they need to at midseason.

Despite the late hour of the NHL offseason, one name in the NHL trade rumors makes a lot of sense for the Golden Knights: Semyon Varlamov. Today we’ll look at a hypothetical trade idea that New York Islanders beat writer Stefen Rosner and I put together.

Here’s the pitch: Nicolas Hague’s RFA rights and a 2023 third-round pick (BUF) to the Islanders for Semyon Varlamov (no salary retained).

Semyon Varlamov

Let’s profile Varlamov before we go any further. Varlamov is a Russian veteran NHL goaltender entering his 15th season. He has never been the best goaltender in the league but is far from the worst.

Last season he played in 31 games with the Islanders and had a .911 save percentage and 2.91 goals against average. Adding Varlamov would give the Golden Knights a capable starting goaltender for the 2022-23 season instead of relying on an inexperienced Logan Thompson and backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit.

Why This Works

The Golden Knights have had their eye on Varlamov since the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. He is an intriguing name, not because he is a capable NHL goaltender but because he has just one year remaining on his contract that pays him $5 million against the cap. If the Golden Knights fetch Varlamov in a trade, they can simply use the cap space that Lehner’s injury freed up (fittingly $5 million as well), slot Varlamov in, and then let Varly walk in free agency next summer.

This trade also makes sense in terms of organizational depth for both sides. The Islanders have Ilya Sorokin, an emerging goaltender who is 27 years old, ready to take over as a starter. Losing Nic Hague would be tough for the Golden Knights, but they have oodles of young defensemen in their organization to replace him.

The strongest point I have for this trade is how it would knock down other dominoes in the NHL. The Islanders could free up $5 million in cap space with this deal, which would give them enough to sign Nazem Kadri, rumored to be getting a seven-year $7 million deal. The Islanders also need cap space to re-sign Noah Dobson, and in this case, they would also need to sign newly-acquired Nicolas Hague.

Shipping out Varlamov’s contract would help their efforts to do so.

For the Golden Knights, adding Varlamov and trading Hague would simply put them back to where they started after the Max Pacioretty deal, with around $2 million to spend. They could use this extra money to bring in a depth winger or two, such as Evan Rodrigues or Phil Kessel, or hold onto it for the start of the season.

Why It Doesn’t

Laurent Brossoit makes this hypothetical trade difficult/interesting. His status for the 2022-23 season is up in the air. Right now, it looks like he is going to play, and the Golden Knights are hoping he does. But he is also coming off of hip surgery, which is a tricky injury to recover from, especially for goaltenders.

If Brossoit goes down and joins Lehner on LTIR, this deal works as it gives the Golden Knights a tandem of Varlamov and Thompson. If he’s good to go, it is unlikely this deal will be made as Thompson is not getting sent back to the minors, especially with this golden opportunity in front of him.

One alternative could be trading a healthy Brossoit to the Islanders, as they would need a new backup given that their third-string goaltender is currently Jakub Skarek.

One last thing that hurts the possibility of this trade happening is the price for Varlamov, which was reported to be a first-round pick at last year’s deadline. However, with Hague as a sweetener and given the fact that the Islanders need cap space, Lou Lamoriello could lessen the asking price for Varlamov.

What do you think? Could the Golden Knights trade for Varlamov? Or are they set with Thompson/Brossoit for the entire 2022-23 season?

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Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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Rudy Cedillos

I’m a believer in giving athletes an opportunity to feel wanted and for the team and management to belueve in them. Therefore, go with Thompson and Brossoit! They’ll be fine! Just like I believe the Raiders should invite Yasiel Puig to training camp and let him run the ball as a tailback, or catch the ball as a wide receiver. I truly believe Puig would be a superstar! He’s a natural rebel perfectly fitting the Raiders mold!

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