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In a season where the New York Islanders completely fell short of expectations, one area that remained strong was their goaltending.
While the duo of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov still split a lot of the workload once Varlamov was healthy, Sorokin emerged as clearly capable of taking the starting job in his second NHL season. With Sorokin’s performance, it’s now even more clear that the Islanders should be looking to deal Varlamov.
Even while Varlamov was the team’s starter last season, I had done an article that the Islanders should at least consider getting assets back for Varlamov.
It seemed all but certain that Sorokin would be able to take over as the team’s outright starter in the near future after strong play last season but this year, Sorokin’s play confirmed that. Sorokin took on a much larger workload, playing in 52 games this season and posting an excellent .925 save percentage.
Varlamov, on the other hand, was still solid for the Islanders overall, posting a .911 save percentage but ended up playing just 32 games. Unfortunately, his trade value is likely much lower than it would’ve been a year ago, after Varlamov had posted a .929 save percentage in the 2020-21 season and had an extra year left on his contract. Still though, Varlamov carries trade value and while it may be reduced, this would be the time for the team to make the move.
The Islanders’ cap situation looks nowhere near as bad as it has over the past couple years but still, they don’t have a ton of room to add. Varlamov is now 34 years old and with Sorokin in goal, Varlamov won't be a fit with the team long-term. As a result, moving out Varlamov’s $5 million cap hit and getting assets back in the process and then using the cap space elsewhere is certainly the right move.
Varlamov does have a 16-team no-trade list, which could present some issues. There was the potential that Varlamov could've been moved at the deadline, with the Edmonton Oilers as a potential fit, but The Fourth Period's James Nichols had said Varlamov wouldn't waive his no-trade clause for Edmonton.
If the Islanders are able to find a partner though, there’s simply no reason to keep Varlamov’s cap hit on the books and pass on an opportunity to get back assets.