NHL Free Agency: Washington Capitals Trade Semyon Varlamov and Get a Steal

Jack SouleCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29:  Goalie Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Washington Capitals against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Washing Capitals General Manager George McPhee has always shown himself to be very patient and extremely adept at planning years in advance with roster moves and non-moves. 

For the past few years there has a been a bit a goalie dilemma in the District. Two young goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, competed in a turnstile fashion for the starting goalie position for the past two years with neither ever getting the position. The two went through streaks, trading off periods of being the go-to guy but neither ever emerged as the clear No. 1. 

This last season, another young goalie, Braden Holtby, came onto the scene and also began competing to stay in Washington. For the last two or three seasons, the young goalies were always the subjects of inquiry during trade deadline phone calls and draft-day trade proposals. However, McPhee was never willing to give up the youngsters, believing that they would bring much more return in the future.

He was right.

During the 2010-2011 season, the young goaltenders made history, making the Capitals the first franchise to have three goaltenders, all 22 years old or younger, win 10 games in the same season. 

After this season, one of the goalies looked to be the odd man out. I wrote earlier in the week that Varlamov would be the one to go and would most likely have his rights traded.

Well, Varlamov's rights were just traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

The KHL had expressed serious interest in Varlamov but McPhee submitted a qualifying offer to retain NHL negotiating rights and then traded those rights to Colorado in exchange for a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2012 or 2013.

This was a brilliant move for McPhee. Had Varlamov gone to the KHL, the Caps would've gotten no compensation for a player in which they had invested a lot. By trading Varlamov's rights to Colorado, McPhee gets a first- and second-round pick for a guy who didn't look like he was going to stay in D.C. anyway. 

This was a risky move for Colorado, as they gave up a first-round and second-round pick and Varlamov still could've gone home to Russia, but their GM did a good job and got Varlamov signed before having his rights for even an hour. Varlamov will get $5.5 million over the course of two years. 

This contract is huge for him and a huge risk for Colorado. Varlamov is an incredible goaltender but he hasn't proven himself yet and is very injury prone. I wish him the best and hope he really comes into his own in Colorado like Fleischmann did before his unfortunate blood-clot issue.

Still, the Avs took a huge risk of Varlamov here and it could pay dividends in the future but right now it really looks like McPhee walked away with an absolute steal.

There will not be another steal like this during this free agency period.

Now Washington's future is in the hands of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. Neuvirth will likely be the starter come October based on experience and time spent in the NHL. But who will emerge as the No. 1 guy?