In the midst of a career season, Semyon Varlamov has signed a 5-year contract extension to stay with the Avalanche through the 2018-2019 season.
EDIT: Stick tap to user Guitarpick8120 for breaking the news in our FanPost section hours ago.
Just a few hours before taking the ice against the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche announced a 5-year contract extension for their star goaltender.
According to Pierre Lebrun, the deal is worth $29.5 million, or $5.9 million a year, which is a healthy and well deserved raise from the $2.83 million Varlamov makes today. It's easy to forget that Varlamov is such a young part of this Avalanche team, and that this is his first NHL contract that taps into his UFA years. The Avalanche see Varlamov growing into his prime years as a goaltender and chose not to wait until summer to extend the Russian net minder. From the Avalanche's official press release:
"Undoubtedly, Semyon has been an impact player for us this season," said Avalanche Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic. "At only 25 years old, he is entering the prime years of his career and he wants to be part of this franchise moving forward. We are very excited to have come to terms with him and the fact that he has agreed to a five-year extension demonstrates his commitment to the Avalanche and what we’re trying to accomplish."
The Avalanche net has been a revolving door of mediocrity since Patrick Roy's retirement in 2003. Andrew Raycroft, Brian Elliott, Jose Theodore, David Aebischer, and a few stints of Peter Budaj as a starter have been.... underwhelming to say the least, and for years the Avalanche's goaltending has been a major team weakness. It looked, at least briefly as though the Avalanche had found their goalie of the future in 2009 when Craig Anderson had a breakout season, carrying the Avalanche into the playoffs and himself into Vezina conversation. Anderson couldn't replicate the performance and was traded to the Ottawa Senators for an abysmal half season of Brian Elliott. That's where Semyon Varlamov comes in....
Varlamov has been a contentious player for the Avalanche since they acquired him from the Washington Capitals in 2011. At the time many ridiculed the Avalanche for spending a 1st round pick to acquire a player who was allegedly threatening to defect to the KHL. Varlamov's first season with the Avalanche was up-and-down, posting a .913 SV%, respectable for a goaltender of his age on a struggling team with no stable goalie coach. Varlamov showed flashes of dominance and consistent athletic brilliance, but couldn't quite find the consistency expected of a starting goaltender in today's NHL. Concerns about the young goaltender (and the team as a whole) skyrocketed in the lockout shortened season, as Varlamov posted a career low .903 SV% and career high 3.02 GAA.
But this year?
This year Varlamov seems to have it all figured out. After an amazing start to the season (winning his first five games) many Avalanche fans and hockey pundits yelled "regression" and "small sample size" on Varlamov. And while his performance has, inevitably, dipped a bit from the beginning of the season, Varlamov has shocked the NHL, finding a level of consistency and focus, never displayed in his career to this point. He's carried the Avalanche into a playoff position 52 games into the season and has likely played his way into the starting position for the Russian Olympic Team in Sochi.
Is this season a flash in the pan? Or has Varlamov, with the guidance of Patrick Roy and Francois Allaire finally put the pieces together and become an elite starting goaltender? The Avalanche, with a 5-year commitment seem to think the latter, and after voicing concerns about Varlamov entering this season, they have given him a serious vote of confidence as their goalie of the future.
Varlamov's new deal puts him in the company of some very good goaltenders like Mike Smith (6x$5.66M), Jonathan Quick (10x$5.8M), Kari Lehtonen (5x$5.9M), Corey Crawford (6x6M), and Cam Ward (6x$6.3M), but it doesn't quite break the bank like Tukka Rask (7x$7M), Pekka Rinne (7x$7M) or Henrik Lundqvist (7x$8.5M).