Semyon Varlamov’s Russian agent bashes the Washington Capitals

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It’s rarely safe to assume much about free agency until names are signed on dotted lines, but there’s a strong feeling that young goalie Semyon Varlamov’s days with the Washington Capitals are numbered. (And those numbers seem like they’ll be in the single digits.)

Earlier today, Joe passed along reports that Varlamov will leave the NHL for the greener, Russian pastures of the KHL.

Again, we warn you not to assume that this situation is set in stone, but logic weighs on the side of a departure. As a restricted free agent in a market with a limited number of goalie openings, Varlamov probably wouldn’t be able to maximize his earning potential if he stayed in the NHL. Much like (much older, unrestricted free agent goalie) Evgeni Nabokov before him, Varlamov can make a lot more money by playing overseas in the KHL.

One would think that Varlamov and his reps would have an “all-business” attitude toward his (soon-to-be-former?) employers, the Washington Capitals. After all, the Caps’ reluctance to give Varlamov the $4 million per year deal he reportedly seeks is pretty reasonable. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, Varlamov struggles with injuries and therefore lacks the kind of track record necessary for a big raise. It’s my gut instinct that he’s a bit better than Michal Neuvirth, but the Capitals’ other top option in net will only make $1.15 million per year for the next two seasons. It would take a phenomenal sales job to convince the Capitals that Varlamov is almost $3 million better than Neuvirth.

Yet even in the seemingly dry, bottom line-based world of contract negotiations, it’s important to note that things can get emotional. (Even when it’s not as obvious as a brow-beaten player breaking down in tears during a salary arbitration hearing.) CSNWashington.com shares Varlamov’s Russian agent Vyacheslav Makhrenskiy’s criticisms of the Capitals, originally passed along by Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov.

On the training staff:

“Actually, there are problems with medical care in Washington. Doctors in Russia are better. It happened when the Capitals’ doctor says ‘Everything is alright, let him play.’  Semyon feels that his knee is still hurting. But he goes out to play, and then he’s injured again. And the injury is not that serious, but he couldn’t play again.”

On the contract negotiations:

“The Capitals were getting ready for the new negotiations. But they didn’t expect that Semyon could pick Russia. Washington management thought that they were in charge of the situation. But it turned out not to be the case.”

Sometimes messages get a little muffled with agents, especially in the case of Varlamov and other European players who might have one for NHL negotiations and another for overseas deals. It’s important to note that Varlamov’s departure is far from official; we’ll find out how credible these (seemingly justifiable) rumors are sometime after free agency begins at noon on Friday.

That being said, if he’s done with Washington, future reunions could be frostier than winter days in Russia (which Varlamov will seemingly need to become re-acquainted with).

PHT Morning Skate: Zdeno Chara shot catches emergency goalie in a sensitive spot

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–Sean McIndoe looks at five players who became the unlikeliest first 50-goal scorers in their franchise’s history. McIndoe chose Rick MacLeish (Flyers), Rick Vaive (Maple Leafs), Vic Hadfield (Rangers), Guy Chouinard (Flames) and Mickey Redmond (Red Wings). (The Hockey News)

–A lot of people think hockey players are the toughest athletes, but Islanders forward Anders Lee is here to tell you that they aren’t tough at all. In his story for The Players’ Tribune, Lee writes about a tough, young friend, who is battling cancer. “In the seven years since he has been diagnosed, he has gone through multiple surgeries. He’s had countless radiation treatments. He’s gone through chemotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants. And he does it all with a smile on his face. So when I hear people refer to me as tough because I play hockey, I think of Fenov and kids like him.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Boston Bruins needed an emergency goalie for their practice yesterday, and they settled on Massachusetts state trooper Kevin Segee. Surely, it was the experience of a lifetime for him, but it didn’t come without pain. Segee was clearly shaken up after getting a Zdeno Chara in the…well, you know. (CSN New England)

–Blackhawks forwards Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Tanner Kero each had multi-point games in Wednesday’s 5-1 thumping of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–What was the world like the last time the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs? Thanks to Sports Illustrated, we don’t have to wonder. In 1990, J.K. Rowling had just started writing the Harry Potter series, Donald Trump walked out of an interview with CNN because they were asking tough questions about his casino, the first known webpage was written and much, much more. (Sports Illustrated)

–Edmonton Oilers players and their significant others came together to make 400-500 bowls of homemade soup for charity. It’s pretty cool to see most of the team be involved in such a nice event, even though the onion chopping station gave some of the guys a hard time. (Edmonton Oilers on Twitter)

–Sportsnet has assembled the top hits of the week for your viewing pleasure. Hits from that Toronto, Columbus game made the video a couple of times:

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.