Commentary

Varlamov provides little certainty

Washington Capitals net hefty return from Avs for talented, but unproven, netminder

Originally Published: July 1, 2011
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
Semyon Varlamov Geoff Burke/US PresswireSemyon Varlamov could be the Avs goalie of the future. Or ...

In the days leading up to the start of free agency on July 1, there had been a dark cloud hanging over Washington, specifically, the Verizon Center crease.

Rumors had been circulating for days that Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, unhappy with not being the No. 1 option in net, was headed to the KHL. As a restricted free agent, Washington would have had the opportunity to match any offer sheet he received from another NHL team or receive draft pick compensation should he sign an offer sheet and leave for another club. If he headed to the KHL, the Capitals would have a former first-round pick and potential franchise goalie walk out the door for nothing in return.

Despite that looming threat, Capitals GM George McPhee took a firm stance.

"If he wants to go to the KHL, let him go," George McPhee, general manager of the Washington Capitals, said. "This is the best league in the world, and most players want to play here."

Still, it seemed all the leverage was with Varlamov. That is until Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman gave up Colorado's first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft along with a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013 for the rights to Varlamov -- a generous return considering the Caps could have little more than a smile from SKA St. Petersburg or another KHL franchise.

The price tag also appears to be steep since had Colorado simply extended an offer to Varlamov and Washington didn't match -- a realistic possibility considering their salary-cap limitations -- it would have cost the Avalanche just a second-round pick, given the contract that was eventually signed (a Carey Price-like two-year contract worth $5.5 million total). If Washington did match they could have just signed a proven veteran, like Tomas Vokoun, and given up no draft picks.

So now the question, for both Avalanche and the Capitals, becomes: Was Varlamov worth the cost?

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.