One of the things the Capitals were going to have to face up to having a bevy of solid, young goaltenders is that one way or another they’re going to want to all find playing time. Last year, Michal Neuvirth took advantage of Semyon Varlamov being injured to more or less take the starting job away from the youthful incumbent. While injuries also allowed Braden Holtby a chance to show what he could do at the NHL level and do it well, things were shaping up to be more than a little uncomfortable for the Caps next season in goal.
As it turns out, soon-to-be restricted free agent Varlamov is apparently going to end up making things a bit easier on the Capitals as reports say that he’s going to head to Russia next season and play in the KHL.
Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov found out what was going on with Varlamov through SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov.
In the meantime, Varlamov has made a decision to leave the NHL and go to the KHL. His Russian agent Vyacheslav Makhrenskiy said the following to Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov:
“Varlamov has offers from Washington and from Russia. At this moment Varlamov chose the KHL. But exactly which club I cannot tell you.”
Whether Varlamov plays for SKA or Lokomotiv in the KHL isn’t known yet, but for now it seems that the Capitals’ crowded crease just got a little less so. With Varlamov headed to Russia, the net belongs to Neuvirth and Holtby. Neuvirth emerged as the top guy in Washington last season putting up solid numbers going 27-12-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .914 save percentage with four shutouts. In limited duty, Holtby did quite well himself going 10-2-2 with a 1.79 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
Varlamov’s tenure in Washington was often interrupted by injury leading to the likes of Jose Theodore getting a lot of playing time two seasons ago and to the rise of Neuvirth and Holtby this past season. While the Caps did their due diligence to be respectful to Varlamov, it’s clear they’ve got other, better options to run with in goal and won’t have to worry about relying on Varlamov to stay healthy to move forward.
Losing Varlamov to the KHL might seem like a shot against the NHL, but in situations like this where Varlamov either gets his rights traded to another team or signs a restricted free agent deal with the Caps that sees him fighting for a job, you can understand why he’d go for the Russia pro league. Being from Russia it makes going back there a bit easier to handle. The money isn’t bad either.
For now, the Caps will now have a training camp battle that will see who gets the chance to be the #1 goalie in Washington between Neuvirth and Holtby, a battle that should prove to be a winner either way for coach Bruce Boudreau.