Varlamov contract extension shows NHL teams still overvalue goaltending

Adam Proteau
Semyon Varlamov

The Avalanche locked up starting goalie Semyon Varlamov to a five-year contract extension Thursday – and like many of the goalie contracts being handed out these days, there are significant risks to Colorado’s investment.

ESPN.com reported Varlamov’s new deal had a total value of $29.5 million and an average annual value of $5.9 million per season. That’s nearly as much of a cap hit and term as Chicago’s Corey Crawford (six years, $36 million), someone who has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume. The 25-year-old Varlamov hasn’t been in the playoffs since he was a Washington Capital in 2009 and is only one year removed from a decidedly mediocre campaign in which he posted a 3.02 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. His lifetime .915 SP is decent, but again, nothing to warrant this type of commitment.

Yes, Varlamov has been one of the reasons the Avs are surprising people this year. But you’d think team brass would have used some of their leverage – Varlamov was only going to be a restricted free agent this summer – to their advantage. If Joe Sakic & Co. call this taking advantage of that leverage, one shudders to think what they would have offered him if Varlamov was an unrestricted free agent.

By the time Varlamov’s contract expires in 2019, his cap hit won’t be seen as nearly so onerous. But that’s only if he delivers in a way and at a level he hasn’t delivered at so far. That’s a hell of a gamble – one with a tremendous downside – and an indication NHL GMs aren’t willing to take shorter-term risks when they often make more sense than deals like this one.