Islanders & Maple Leafs Would Be Perfect Trade Partners for Varlamov

The New York Islanders are having a disappointing season, to say the least. The team entered this season with Stanley Cup aspirations but unfortunately, have only won 21 of their 52 games and remain on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. As a result, Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders front office will likely be more inclined to trade away some of the veteran players on the team at the trade deadline in a few weeks.

Related: Islanders: 3 Trade Destinations for Anthony Beauvillier

One of the players that the Islanders might look to trade is veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has proven throughout his career that he is not only capable of becoming a starting goaltender but leading a team deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. An ideal trade partner for the Islanders could be the Toronto Maple Leafs who have Stanley Cup aspirations but are struggling with goaltending. Therefore, Varlamov can be an optimal goaltender for their situation specifically.

Maple Leafs Add the Missing Piece

Goaltending has been a glaring issue for the Maple Leafs recently. After a strong start to the season in the net from Jack Campbell, the starting goaltender has a .873 save percentage (SV%) in his last 14 starts and has allowed four goals or more in each of his last four starts. Head coach Sheldon Keefe is confident Campbell will return to the earlier season form, but the current struggles have been alarming for a team poised to make a deep playoff run. Meanwhile, backup Petr Mrazek has struggled throughout the season with a .890 SV% and a 3.22 goals-against average (GAA) on 374 shots. Both goaltenders struggling has been a particular concern considering the talent on the roster otherwise, but more importantly, for the Stanley Cup playoffs, when the team will have to face talented opposing goaltenders.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite the recent struggles, Campbell will still likely be the Maple Leafs’ starter for a Cup run. While it’s possible the team can make a move for a goaltender like Marc-Andre Fleury with the hope of the world-class goaltender leading the team as the starter, it’s more likely that Kyle Dubas and the front office, who are not concerned with the goaltending situation, will look for a goaltender that could help out as a backup, notably, taking pressure off of Campbell.

Varlamov would help form a formidable goaltending trio for the Maple Leafs, helping out for a difficult April schedule and the hopeful playoff run. The handful of starts that the 33-year-old goaltender would provide allow Campbell to be well-rested and ready for the playoffs. Moreover, Varlamov can become the starter and lead the Maple Leafs to a deep playoff run as he led the Islanders last season with a .922 SV% and a 2.56 GAA as the team reached the Stanley Cup Semifinal.

Varlamov Isn’t a Rental

The Maple Leafs will be active at the trade deadline but won’t want to risk going all-in on this season. One of the primary bonuses of acquiring Varlamov is he is under contract for the next two seasons after signing a four-year contract in 2019. Even if the Maple Leafs struggle in the playoffs, the veteran goaltender can be a primary part of the team in the upcoming season and at 34-years-old still provide strong performances in the net.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, Campbell is a pending free agent at the end of the season. While the front office will hope to re-sign him, the salary cap will likely result in the veteran goaltender testing free agency and fielding a great offer elsewhere. Varlamov, meanwhile, gives the Maple Leafs the ability to let Campbell leave in free agency and still field a competitive team next season with stability in net.

Islanders Reboot With Move

The Islanders aren’t looking to rebuild at the trade deadline, especially with a team that is still built to compete for the Stanley Cup. Instead, the front office will look at the deadline as an opportunity to make a trade that keeps the roster intact and allows for a big move in the offseason. There are a handful of veterans that could be on the move at the trade deadline, but the key contributors like Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Ryan Pulock will remain with the hope of not only competing for a Stanley Cup in the upcoming seasons but possibly luring a talented free agent in the offseason.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal is among the players that will keep the Islanders competitive in the upcoming seasons. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ilya Sorokin is already proven to be the starting goaltender for the Islanders, starting 37 of the 52 games this season including five shutout performances, and will be the starter moving forward. As a result, Varlamov is expendable and could give the Islanders a few prospects or draft selections in a trade, both of which, the Islanders currently lack. Additionally, the pieces the Islanders acquire in a Varlamov trade could be used in the offseason to acquire a star-caliber player like Patrick Kane or Jakob Chychrun who could put the roster over the top.

Why The Islanders Wouldn’t Trade Varlamov to Toronto

The Islanders will look for the best offer with all trades and another team may offer more prospects or draft selections for Varlamov than the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs can make the move and will possibly eagerly acquire a goaltender of Varlamov’s caliber but might not have enough pieces for the Islanders to part ways with their veteran goaltender.

In addition, moving on from Varlamov puts a lot of confidence in Sorokin but also puts a lot of pressure on 22-year-old Jakob Skarek who would be the presumptive backup. Sorokin has proven he can carry the Islanders and start the majority of the team’s games, but the team needs a reliable backup and it’s unclear if they have one within the organization. The Islanders have been carried by their goaltending duo and a move could risk turning the position into a liability, making any move with Varlamov a risky and possibly consequential one.

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