Varlamov Passing on Oilers a Bad Sign for Holland’s NHL Trade Deadline

That Semyon Varlamov declined to waive his no-trade clause to join the Edmonton Oilers this season is not a good sign. For an organization that already isn’t motivated to move a first-round pick or a high-end prospect to improve this team this season, it was clear a handful of available deadline options weren’t going to be available to GM Ken Holland. If the middle-tier guys are also passing, what can the Oilers really do?

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.

The answer might be not much and if the Oilers are a team barely able to squeak into the playoffs this year, what does that mean for their chances to make a long run?

Varlamov Shoots Down Oilers

To be fair, Elliotte Friedman noted in his latest 32 Thoughts column of Varlamov, “His no-trade covers half the NHL. Teams are petrified of admitting they’re talking to the Islanders.” With that being said, Edmonton was one of the few teams with enough guts to put themselves out there and see if Varlamov would bite. Friedman added, “If it happens, I’m not convinced it will be Edmonton.” The suggestion here is that Varlamov would have turned down more than just the Oilers, but other teams didn’t give him a chance to say no.

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

Still, those teams know what the Oilers probably know which is that it’s not a good look when a player shoots you down. That’s especially true if your team is a playoff contender and the team you’re potentially leaving has been abysmal. Is the goaltender holding out for what he feels is a better chance to win? And, he doesn’t see Edmonton as the franchise that gives him that chance? Or, is this more about location? It could be a few factors.

Oilers Running Out Of Options

If the Oilers aren’t willing to trade a first or a high-end prospect, the ability to acquire someone of value ahead of the deadline is slim. In addition, if the Oilers can’t fit in much more in the way of salary — which they can’t without moving money out in any deal — Holland really has his hands tied. The Islanders were one of the few teams likely willing to work with Edmonton when it came to a return and playing with contracts. What other teams are out there with viable goaltending options and the flexibility to make a deal work?

Related: Oilers Should Do Whatever it Takes to Move Kassian’s Contract

The Dallas Stars are still fighting for a playoff spot. That likely means Braden Holtby is out. The New York Rangers are shopping Alexandar Georgiev but won’t give him away for little return: Frank Seravalli notes, “The Rangers have been making calls in an attempt to move Georgiev, provided GM Chris Drury can find another veteran that he’d be comfortable with as an insurance policy on Hart Trophy candidate Igor Shesterkin.” Marc-Andre Fleury apparently doesn’t want to leave Chicago and while the Columbus Blue Jackets might play ball, how much better is Joonas Korpisalo than what the Oilers already have?

The Oilers Can’t Be Comfortable As Is

Holland has said he’s comfortable with the goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. That was before it appeared the Oilers were finally done giving any rope to Smith with which to hang himself. Yes, Smith is under the weather and that’s why he’s not playing, but Koskinen is being looked at more as a starter and Stuart Skinner may earn an opportunity to be the Oilers’ backup moving forward.

Mikko Koskinen Edmonton Oilers
Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Is Holland as comfortable with this duo as he seemed to be with the pairing he planned to play most of this season together? If Smith continues to struggle, are the Oilers prepared to say that Koskinen and Skinner are their tandem heading into a playoff series?

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

The Oilers might not have any other choice and whether you were a fan of Varlamov or not, he was one of the few options Edmonton had that allowed them to give up little in the way of assets and get a proven netminder back.