One of NY islanders greatest strengths in the Lou Lamoriello Era was their goalkeeper. The Hall-of-Famer GM is traditionally known for building his teams from the web and has maintained the same principle with the islanders. It started with Robin Lehner and Thomas Gress and has switched Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov. The latter two were ranked as the NHL’s top goaltender tandem for the 2022-23 season.
There has recently been speculation (again) as to whether or not Lamoriello Varlamov, the 34-year-old who has reportedly piqued player interest, will trade Vegas Golden Knights back to NHL Trade Deadline 2022. Unfortunately for Kelly McCrimmon and the Golden Knights, Vegas will be without Lehner, their No. 1 goaltender, for the entire 2022-23 season. After the injury became known, there was a general question as to whether or not McCrimmon would return to Lamoriello due to his interest in Varlamov. And while that could still happen, Lamoriello is unlikely to want to split his goalkeeping tandem.
Travis Yost from TSN broke up every NHL team’s goaltender tandem by tier. One of his observations as he broke down each pair was that NHL teams outside of North America are finding more value on the net, noting the “increased European imports” and coincidentally both Islander goalies are from Russia.
Sorokin and Varlamov fall in Yost’s premier league, and to measure, Yost “takes into account stop rates and goals being above expectations, which allows us to adjust both shot volume and the quality of shots taken.”
“I would say this is the best move in hockey. Ilya Sorokin is one of the best keepers in the league and will get the most starts, but Semyon Varlamov’s presence in this squad gives Lane Lambert plenty of options when it comes to timing and managing recovery Varlamov played 31 games last year and 91, 2 percent of shots blocked. Considering how many teams in the league are still looking for a goaltender, having two on the roster is an impressive luxury for the Islanders.”
– Travis Yost
Sorokin and Varlamov are among the best players in Yost’s goalkeeping depth. Current Vezina winner, of course Igor Shesterkin and re-signed Yaroslav Halak are also in tier one, as well as Nashville’s Jus Saros and Kevin LankinenWinnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and David Rittichand Tampa Bays Andrei Vasilyevsky and Brian Eliot. However, the difference between the Islanders tandem and the rest is that most other teams listed are carried by their starter such as Hellebuyck or Vasilevskiy, while both Sorokin and Varlamov can be in the same conversation as a starting goaltender.
An “impressive luxury” is well explained. The Islanders have not traditionally scored the most goals in the league and apart from 2021-22 their defense is historically strong. It probably serves Lamoriello best to stick with Varlamov ($5 million AAV) for the final year of his contract while the Islands seek to get back into the playoffs and hit another deep run.