May 6, 2011, 8:15 PM EST
It’s possible that throughout the Capitals run to the playoffs, another Southeast Division title, and earning the top spot in the Eastern Conference that you lost track of one-time starting goalie Semyon Varlamov. When Michal Neuvirth took over the lead job in Washington for the playoffs after both he and Varlamov essentially split roles during the regular season, you could expect that that wouldn’t go over well for the Russian Varlamov who spent last season as the Caps top guy.
Getting bumped down the depth chart is a humbling experience and for Varlamov. He’s due to become a restricted free agent in the offseason, and the Caps failing to get out of the second round made for an even more difficult and trying time to ride the pine. With the Caps out of the playoffs, Varlamov is looking ahead to next year and hoping that he’s got a chance to start again. As for having to sit idly by to watch his team be eliminated, Varlamov tells Slava Malamud of Russian’s Sport-Express that it was a learning experience in the most sarcastic of ways possible.
“It is horrible to sit on the bench,” Varlamov said. “This was the first time in my career when I mostly sat and watched. But you have to take lessons from everything and turn it for the best. As they say in America, it was a good experience for me… Yes, that’s it. Sitting on the bench for two rounds. Good experience.”
Despite sounding bitter, Varlamov had no complaints about the Capitals’ decision to play Michal Neuvirth exclusively in the playoffs.
“The coach made no mistake in selecting [Neuvirth],” Varlamov said. “Neuvirth played great.”
As for Varlamov’s future with Neuvirth the heir apparent and another youngster in Braden Holtby waiting in the wings, Varlamov says that he’d like to get a shot at starting. Failing that, heading back to Russia is an option he’s keeping open.
“The season is over, so I can start thinking about the future right now,” said Varlamov, looking a bit more downcast than his usual cheerful self. “I will see what happens. My wish is to stay in the NHL and to play for Washington. Hopefully, I can sign a deal soon.”
Asked what would happen if a KHL team made a better offer, Varlamov said: “I am not ready to answer this question right now. But my childhood dream was to play in the NHL. I am only 23 and I would like to play against the best.”
He is still young and with three young goalies on the staff in Washington, it gives them the opportunity to potentially explore moving one of them to get something a bit more useful in return. Between Neuvirth, Varlamov, and Holtby there are guys that other teams in need of goaltending could try to dazzle the Caps on dealing. The catch here is that the Caps are reticent to give up any of their young players even if they’ve got a surplus of them. George McPhee isn’t a GM that’s going to make trades just because he can.
Making things tricky if Varlamov is the guy the Caps would be more willing to deal is Varlamov’s injury history. He’s struggled with staying healthy each season he’s played and him being injured this season opened the door for Neuvirth to take over. There’s a bright future ahead for all three of these guys, but going with a two goalie rotation can be tricky enough, working with three is nearly impossible without keeping an NHL-caliber guy in the AHL. Varlamov’s summer could prove to be very anxious.
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ 40
- Columbus puts Bobrovsky (groin) on IR, out 4-5 weeks 3
- The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Olympic odds, Russia’s defense, King Henrik’s new deal, Fire Cappy? and more 27
- With Lundqvist deal done, Sather faces tough questions 11
- King of New York: Rangers sign Lundqvist to seven-year, $59.5 million extension 41
- Lehtonen shines, Roussel agitates as Stars beat ‘Hawks 52
- Report: NHL set to finally pay Gretzky at least $7M 15
- Kadri out as falling Leafs start tough stretch vs. Sharks 9
- Wounded Wings: Zetterberg (back) out, joins Datsyuk on shelf 7
- Burrows out with broken jaw (Update: expected to miss at least four weeks) 22
- Video: Canucks’ Bieksa fights Rangers’ Boyle, then kicks Boyle’s helmet (52)
- Lehtonen shines, Roussel agitates as Stars beat ‘Hawks (52)
- King of New York: Rangers sign Lundqvist to seven-year, $59.5 million extension (41)
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ (40)
- Panthers announced attendance Tuesday night lowest since 2008 (37)