Varlamov is gone, now what?

Not anymore, Varly

The writing has been on the wall for awhile now but Semyon Varlamov has reportedly signed a contract with SKA of the KHL. Varly will apparently make $4 mil per season on this contract. This is pretty bad news for the Caps in general because Varlamov is very important to this team moving forwards. I said this in his player report card, but he had what was probably his best season in the NHL last year but he wasn’t the starter because he was hurt all the time and Michal Neuvirth played well enough to keep the job. This isn’t a knock on Neuvirth at all because he is a very good goaltender but one of the Capitals strengths was having two very talented goalies on the roster and they made a very reliable tandem. Now one half of that tandem is gone and the Caps are going to have to decide if they have complete confidence in Neuvirth as the starter (and judging from their decision to start him throughout the playoffs they do) or look to find a back-up or a #2 goalie.

Money and playing time appear to be the main reasons why Varlamov left. Varly wanted to be a #1 goalie and injuries prevented him from being one and the Caps can’t give $4 mil a year to a goalie who has yet to start more than 30 games in an NHL season so letting him go appeared to be the only option. The fact that the Caps let him go with nothing in return demonstrates poor asset management but their hands were tied by this situation. Varlamov will be missed, but it’s time to move on. What do we do with our goaltending next year? Sign a free agent to back-up or compete with Neuvirth or call up Braden Holtby full-time to be the back-up.

Some possible free agents we could sign if we’re looking for a true back-up are Alex Auld, Mathieu Garon, Peter Budaj or Ty Conklin. All four will not ask for much money and they are not bad goalies when you know that you have a #1 in front of them. Whether or not Neuvirth is a true #1 is up in the air to me, though. He could be Steve Mason or he could be Ryan Miller for all I know but if he is the former then finding another cheap young goalie to compete with him would be an option. Josh Harding is the name that keeps popping up in my head when I think of who we could target there. The thing is, if we’re going to go that route then we might as well just call-up Braden Holtby but I’d like to see him have another full-season in Hershey.

This is a situation I hoped we wouldn’t have to be in this season but as I said earlier, many saw this coming for a long time. Hopefully for the Caps, Neuvy can play as well as he did in the playoffs and the first month of the season on a more consistent basis.

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