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).

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).

Luongo pushes through ‘mental, physical grind’ in comeback from hip injury

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Roberto Luongo is back, taking part in the preseason for the Florida Panthers, in preparation for when the games begin to count in the standings.

However, his latest comments suggest he didn’t know if that would indeed be the case, after suffering a hip injury that resulted in surgery following the 2015-16 season and then shut him down in March last season.

“For a good two- to three-month period it was a battle mentally to just figure out if I could be able to ever come back,” Luongo told NHL.com. “I didn’t feel like I was getting better and it was constantly bothering me, so it was as much a mental grind as a physical grind from March until almost June if I could ever fully recover and feel good on the ice.”

Luongo is now 38 years old and the rigorous demands of playing that position for more than 960 career regular season games — not to mention playoffs or international duty — can surely take a toll on the body. The Panthers have a good tandem in net with Luongo and James Reimer, but what will be intriguing as the season progresses is how head coach Bob Boughner divvies up playing time between the two, with Luongo appearing to be healthier and as Florida looks to get back into the postseason.

The past several weeks, though, have been encouraging for Luongo. He returned to the ice well ahead of training camp and gave an optimistic report, saying there weren’t “any issues.” That was just over a month ago. He stopped all eight shots he faced during 31:26 of ice time in his preseason debut last week, which was a good start.

Auston Matthews puts on a show in preseason tilt vs. Habs

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Auston Matthews and William Nylander are showing no signs of any sophomore slump so far through the pre-season.

Matthews had a hat trick and an assist and Nylander had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in an NHL preseason game on Monday night.

Matthews scored his first goal of the game 47 seconds into the first period. His wrist shot from just inside the blue line went over the right shoulder of Canadiens goaltender Al Montoya.

Matthews made it 2-0 at 4:56. Nylander’s initial shot went high, and Matthews batted down the rebound and into an open side of the net.

He scored his third goal in the third period. While on a breakaway, Matthews shot the puck between the legs of Montoya at 3:46.

Matthews has four goals and two assists in three preseason games.

Jeff Petry scored for Montreal while on the power play at 11:37 of the second period.

Nylander scored at 6:03 of the third period to give Toronto a 5-1 lead.

Patrick Marleau also had a goal for Toronto while Frederik Andersen made 20 saves.