Colorado Avalanche: Is Semyon Varlamov on the Trade Block?

Mar 28, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) looks on during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) looks on during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche are deep in the goalie department. The team might consider trading Semyon Varlamov in the off-season.

The Colorado Avalanche are going to have a disappointing end to the 2015-16 season. As such, it’s likely the front offices will be looking to make some changes in the off-season.

One change that’s been suggested by pundits and fans alike is moving one of the core players. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is often mentioned with the occasional side of Matt Duchene. However,  forward depth is a problem for the Colorado Avalanche — look how hard offense became without those players in the lineup.

Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are the core of the defense.  However,  Johnson just signed a very team-friendly contract with term, and Barrie looks likely to head to salary arbitration, making him ineligible for trade over the summer.

One player who isn’t often mentioned with trade rumors is goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Semyon Varlamov and Team Culture

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As head coach Patrick Roy‘s stated number one goalie, Semyon Varlamov seems well-insulated. I don’t think that’s the case anymore, nor should it be. As Altitude TV color analyst Mark Rycroft remarked on The Fan, anyone is available for the right price. That may not apply to young Nathan MacKinnon, but no one else is untouchable.

During a separate The Fan interview,  coach Roy talked about what the culture of the team is becoming. One aspect of team culture he mentioned was the ability for core players to be a big difference-maker and to even carry the team.

It’s well-known that Varlamov was the big difference-maker during the golden 2013-14 season. Likewise, he’s continued to be the reason the Colorado Avalanche have even had a chance in some games. However,  he’s also been the reason Colorado has lost some games — I’m thinking especially of the Stadium Series game and even the following Minnesota Wild game when he allowed three goals on 12 shots.

What’s more, coach Roy has grown critical of Varlamov.  Ever his greatest supporter, he’s nonetheless pointed out that he’d like to have seen Varlamov make more key saves. In fact, during his interview with The Fan, he stated that one aspect of team culture he’s looking at is whether the goalie is capable of “closing the door” late in the game.

Semyon Varlamov a Tradable Commodity

I’m not suggesting Varlamov is washed up as a goalie or deserves to have lost our confidence.  Rather, I’m going to point out that he’s a commodity the Colorado Avalanche could afford to trade.

It should come as no surprise that Patrick Roy, one of the best goalies to ever play the game, made it a priority to shore up the Colorado Avalanche’s goal tending core. He immediately brought in his old goalie coach, Francois Allaire.

They implemented a system of developing Avs goalies that includes summer goal tending camps. Both Calvin Pickard and Reto Berra attend every year.

That is another aspect of the goal tending depth. Colorado traded for Berra in 2013 — it was the first-ever NHL trade deadline deal that Sakic and Roy made as management for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche also drafted Spencer Martin in 2013 and Maximilian Pajpach in 2014.  Colorado acquired Roman Will as a free agent in 2014. Though he’s back in Finland, Sami Aittokallio is still part of Colorado’s system.

That level of positional depth is unrivaled anywhere else in the Colorado Avalanche system.

What’s more, Varlamov is a mite expensive at $5.9 million over the next three seasons. Trading him frees up a fair amount of cap space.

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Potential Return for Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard is a restricted free agent this summer, so Colorado won’t get much if they let him go. No one picked up Reto Berra as a waiver player, so, again, it’s unlikely the Avs can get much for him in a trade. The other four goalies are still very much prospects, so, again, the Avalanche probably can’t expect much in return.

That leaves Semyon Varlamov.

Varlamov is an inconsistent goalie with a wonky groin. Additionally, according to War on Ice, he has an adjusted save percentage of 92.62, which puts him literally in the middle of the pack.

That said, it’s also well-known that Varlamov can stand on his head and play impossible games for his team. Coach Roy has also been open about Varlamov’s play being a prime reason he won the Jack Adams award for coaching in his rookie season.

In short, he’s a lot better than many teams have. It’s no stretch to think a team like, say, the Calgary Flames might want to trade for him.

If that were the case, Colorado would have to get a good defenseman or really good defensive prospect in return. Because without Varlamov — as good as Pickard is and as capable as Berra would be as backup — the Avalanche’s defense would have to get a lot tighter to allow the team to win.

Related Story: Adjusted Save Percentage & the Avs

Making a Statement by Trading Varlamov

One of the stated reasons for pulling a goalie during a game is to force the skaters to play better when they’ve been hanging him out to dry. Coach Roy has definitely done that throughout his three seasons.

Unfortunately, having a goalie like Semyon Varlamov in net allows the skaters to become lax. They all have it in their heads that he’s a phenomenal goalie and he’ll clean up their messes. The skaters tend to play better defense when Pickard or Berra is in net. It’s not that they don’t have faith in those goalies, just not as much I don’t think.

Next: Roy Needs to Play Best Goalie Every Night

The Colorado Avalanche’s mentality needs a shot of icy water in the face. As coach Roy pointed out in The Fan interview, the team’s culture is changing. They’re learning how to win.

However, he was also very clear in stating — in more than one interview, actually — that it’s up to the core players to carry the team. It’s not that Varlamov hasn’t carried the team. Maybe it’s just time to use him to make a statement to the other core players instead.