Capitals Report Card: Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov

Stats: 25 GP, 11-9-5, .924 save pct. 2.23 GAA, 2 SO, .930 EV SV%,
Contract Info: $821, 667 cap hit, pending RFA

Much of the Caps off-season turmoil has been centered around their young Russian goalie (and pending RFA) Semyon Varlamov and whether or not he will return to Washington to battle for the starting job or go to the KHL where he will likely have a chance to be a starter and earn a lot more money while doing so. I am someone who believes that you do not need to spend big money on goaltenders unless you’re getting a proven elite goalie or someone you can count on to keep your team in every game (Tomas Vokoun, Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist come to mind), so I do not think George McPhee needs to break the bank when offering Varly a new contract. However, if Varlamov leaves and the Caps get nothing in return, I will not be happy because I still maintain that he is the best goalie the Caps have and the season he just had only strengthens my opinion.

Varlamov’s season began on the injured reserve list, a place he is more familiar with than we would like to be, and he ended up losing his starting job to Michal Neuvirth as a result. When Varlamov was healthy, he played like he was the better goalie and I still say that he wasn’t the starting goalie in the playoffs because he was injured for a good portion of the season and Neuvirth played well enough to keep the job. I know it’s with a small sample size, but this tandem has given the Capitals some of the best goaltending they’ve seen in awhile in their (roughly) two years in Washington.  Last season, Varlamov set career bests in save percentage and GAA after having somewhat of a down season in 2009-10. His record may have been only 11-9-5 but I have always considered wins somewhat of a meaningless stat for goaltenders because Varlamov played well in most of the games that he didn’t win, especially his 30+ save performances against Tampa Bay where the team was shutout twice. Looking at his game log, you’ll see only two disastrous starts (@NYR and ANA) there surrounded by solid performances in just about every other game. This article does a good job at detailing the lack of goal support that Varly has gotten compared to Neuvirth, hence why he has a worse record than him.

As I stated earlier, Varlamov’s durability is what’s keeping him from being the starting goaltender for the Capitals. He was bothered by a groin injury for almost the entire season and missed nearly all of October, November and March and even needed to make a few conditioning starts in Hershey because of it. It was also what kept him from starting in the playoff that and Neuvirth not being to blame at all for any of the losses against Tampa Bay but it should be noted that Varlamov was lights out against Tampa Bay this season with a .949 save percentage and one shutout against them, so I think starting him would have been at least worth a shot when the team was down 0-2 heading into Game 3.

When it comes to giving Varly a new contract, I feel that his ceiling should be $2 mil per year because he hasn’t shown that he can play a full-season but he has shown that he can play great when given the chance and that’s what most young goalies need to do if they want to stay in the league. It’s a shame that he was hampered with injuries again because he improved in just about every category compared to last season so I’m giving him a B here. The door is still open for Varly to be the starter in DC but he has to earn it and be willing to take a significant paycut compared to what he might get in Russia (I’ve heard $4-4.5 mil per year thrown around). McPhee has made his stance clear on how he feels about the situation and so has Varly so I hope the two of them can come to an agreement in a couple weeks having Varlamov is very important to this team and we can not let him leave for nothing.

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