Semyon Varlamov during Islanders training camp at their practice facility in...

Semyon Varlamov during Islanders training camp at their practice facility in East Meadow on Friday, September 22, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Maybe Semyon Varlamov had a chance this offseason to leave the Islanders via free agency and be a No. 1 goalie again for another team. He knows he can still handle a heavier workload than he’s had since Ilya Sorokin ascended to being the Islanders franchise netminder.

Yet Varlamov’s offseason priority — as he told anybody who asked last season — was to remain on Long Island, not shop himself elsewhere in the NHL.

“At this point, Ilya, of course, he’s going to play as a No. 1 goalie this year,” Varlamov told Newsday. “I’m 35. The future with the Islanders goes with him. I’m not 25 anymore. Do I need to play 60 games? No. Can I play 60 games? Yes.”

So the Islanders have their Russian goalie tandem locked up long term: Sorokin through 2032 after receiving an eight-year, $66 million extension that starts next season while Varlamov agreed to a four-year, $11 million contract that includes a no-trade clause the first two seasons.

“You never know what’s going to happen when your contract is over,” Varlamov said. “Of course there were a lot of questions going into the summer whether I am going to stay or not. I wanted to stay and I said that a lot last season. That was my goal, to re-sign here and then stay here longer with this group of guys.

“I wanted to continue playing here, competing here for this organization and try to win the [Stanley] Cup with this organization. I didn’t want to go and play somewhere else. I believe this group can win in the next couple of years and I want to be part of that.”

As a result, Varlamov doesn’t even think about the hypotheticals.

“For me, the most important thing was to re-sign here,” Varlamov said. “Anything could happen, right? But I don’t want to talk about 'what if this' and then 'what if that.' I signed here and the No. 1 priority was this summer to re-sign here. I’m glad everything worked out. At this point, the rest of the stuff, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

But Varlamov did want to receive a good portion of the preseason workout to sharpen his game, knowing he’s not likely to see a ton of time once the season starts. He played two complete games and two-thirds of another out of the Islanders’ six preseason games, allowing 12 goals on 81 shots for a 4.50 goals-against average and .852 save percentage.

Neither of those statistics are good enough for the regular season, though in only one game did Varlamov play behind a lineup comprised mainly of NHL players.

“We think they’re very close to being regular-season ready and we still have another week,” coach Lane Lambert said of Sorokin and Varlamov. “They’re just like anybody else in preseason. They’re finding their way at times, too. Is there a goal or two they want back? Maybe. But we move forward and get them ready.”

All cleared

As expected, goalies Ken Appleby and Jakub Skarek, defensemen Dennis Cholowski, Grant Hutton, Paul LaDue and Robin Salo and forwards Arnaud Durandeau, Otto Koivula, Karson Kuhlman and Brian Pinho all cleared waivers on Saturday after 24 hours.

All were expected to be re-assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.

From the pod

Ex-Islander power forward Mark Parrish, now an NHL Network analyst and broadcaster for the Minnesota Wild, was the guest on episode 169 of Newsday’s Island Ice podcast. Parrish said he had chatted with fellow Minnesotan Zach Parise, who, at 39, opted not to attend training camp after two seasons with the Islanders while his family remained in his home state. Parise has not officially retired, though.

“I’ve been there, I know exactly what he’s feeling,” Parrish said. “The year I spent with Tampa, my wife stayed home to give birth to our son and it was the hardest year of hockey I’ve ever had, away from my family. For him to do it for two years, the courage that it takes to be away from your family, kudos and my hats are off so I completely understand that.

“However, I am really hoping the draw of the game sucks him back in. Because, like I told him this summer, ‘You play this game until they kick you out or your legs fall enough. And then you play for two more years.”

Roundabout

The Islanders had somewhat of a misadventure returning from Philadelphia after Thursday night’s 5-2 preseason loss to the Flyers. Heavy fog prevented their charter flight from landing on Long Island so the plane was diverted to Baltimore and then back to Philadelphia. After all that, the team wound up returning to Long Island via bus.

And they’re off…

The Islanders open the season with three straight home games and six of eight at UBS Arena in October, giving them an opportunity to take advantage of the early schedule. Here’s how they’ve fared in the season’s first month under president/general manager Lou Lamoriello and how they finished:

2018-19 – 6-4-1 (48-27-7, 2nd Metropolitan Division)

2019-20 – 8-3-0 (35-23-10, 6th Metropolitan Division)

2020-21 (season started in January) – 3-4-2 (32-17-7, 4th East Division)

2021-22 – 3-2-2 (37-35-10, 5th Metropolitan Division)

2022-23 – 5-4-0 (42-31-9, 4th Metropolitan Division)

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