Almost lost in their disastrous campaign is the fact that, in late January, the Avs shut down No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov so he could have season-ending groin surgery.
To hear GM Joe Sakic explain it, the move was designed so Varlamov could get a head start on next season.
“I expect him to be fully healthy next year,” Sakic said, per the Denver Post. “He’s had the problems with his groin the last couple of years, and this year, but he’s a worker, he cares, he’s a guy who puts a lot of pressure on that area the way he plays.
“We’re very confident by doing this procedure, he’s going to be back where he once was. I think it’s going to be a lot better mentally for him, that he’s not one push away from pulling his groin. I know that this year was a tough year for him mentally. In your head, it’s almost, ‘When’s the next time it’s going to pull?’ By doing this, we’re confident he’ll be back to 100 percent and have this behind him and he can just focus on playing.”
Varlamov, who turns 29 in April, has struggled with health and consistency since his banner ’13-14 campaign — the one in which he led the NHL with 41 wins, finished second in Vezina voting and fourth for the Hart Trophy.
He appeared in 57 games in each of the last two seasons, but his save percentage steadily dropped (from .921 to .914). This year, he only played 24 times, and posted an ugly .898.
Given he’s nearly 30 and trending in the wrong direction, it wasn’t entirely surprising to read this last month, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
We’ve been focusing on defencemen as what the Avalanche will be acquiring for one of their cornerstone forwards.
But don’t be surprised if a goalie becomes a focal point of the conversation, too. I’m not sure Colorado is too secure in what they have.
Varlamov’s smack in the middle of a five-year, $29.5 million extension, one that carries a $5.9 million cap hit. That’s a big financial obligation. Outside of Varly, Colorado has a young ‘tender in Calvin Pickard, but it’s unclear if the Avs see him as a potential No. 1.
It’s also unclear what the organization thinks of Spencer Martin, the 63rd overall pick in ’13. Martin’s played reasonably well for AHL San Antonio this year, and got a small taste of NHL action. He’s still only 21, though.
Add it all up, and the goaltending situation is just another wrinkle in what’s become a very complex situation for Colorado.