Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov grounds Jets with shutout
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Semyon Varlamov is used to hearing his name in trade rumors, though the chatter may be louder now as he completes a four-year, $20 million deal with Ilya Sorokin having become the Islanders’ clear-cut No. 1 goalie. Several playoff contenders need help in net, and Varlamov could bring back a good return for an organization lacking first-round picks and top prospects.
But in a one-on-one chat in Sunday’s victorious dressing room after his media scrum, Varlamov insisted he wants to remain with the Islanders after Friday’s NHL trade deadline and return next season, too.
“There’s always possibilities, anybody could be traded and, at this time of the year, there’s a lot of trades happening, of course,” Varlamov said after making 23 saves for his second shutout this season in Sunday afternoon’s 4-0 win over the Jets at Canada Life Centre.
“Do I want to be traded? Absolutely not,” Varlamov said. “I want to stay with this team. I love this team. I want to stay and re-sign. But it’s out of my control.
“Every year there’s a lot of talking. People talk. Fans talk. Social media. Media, friends, family. Everybody’s talking about it. It’s just this time of the year. I get used to it.”
Varlamov was the beneficiary of one of the Islanders’ better defensive efforts and one of their most complete 60-minute performances of the season. The Islanders (31-25-7), who maintained their tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, limited the Jets (35-24-1) to one shot in the first period.
“I thought it was good,” coach Lane Lambert said. “I thought the guys — and have been the last few games — played really disciplined with our structure. We’re making it difficult for teams to generate a little bit.”
Varlamov made his first start in four games after recording 21 saves in a 6-2 road loss to the NHL-leading Bruins on Feb. 18. It was his third start in the last 10 games.
He was sharp when he needed to be, particularly in stopping all 14 shots he faced in the second period. That included kicking out his left pad to stop Pierre-Luc Dubois’ in-tight backhander at 15:31. In the third period, he made a tough stop on Kyle Connor’s power-play one-timer at 12:39.
“He’s a No. 1 goalie,” Anders Lee said. “He’s a great goaltender that’s always ready to go. Varly has been around for us for a long time now and that’s no different this season. He comes in and stands on his head quite a bit.”
But Varlamov will be 35 next season and would have to take a drastic cut from his $5 million salary-cap hit to re-sign with the Islanders. Sorokin’s $4 million cap hit through next season could be doubled on his next contract.
David Rittich made 20 saves for the Jets, who also lost to the Islanders, 2-1, on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
Bo Horvat’s blistering shorthanded wrist shot off the rush from the right circle — his fourth shorthanded goal of the season — gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 7:56 of the first period.
Defenseman Alexander Romanov picked the far upper corner from the left point to make it 2-0 at 4:22 of the second period. Brock Nelson, who has at least a point in 16 of his last 17 games, pulled the puck around Connor to get to the middle of the ice and beat Rittich with a wrist shot for a 3-0 edge at 18:41 of the second period. Defenseman Adam Pelech banked in a rink-length empty-net goal to cap the scoring at 17:59 of the third period.