Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made it no secret last season that he wanted to re-sign with the Islanders in free agency.
The question seemed to be how he and the organization would adjust to the reality that Varlamov is now a clear backup to Ilya Sorokin, and it was asked and answered with the four-year, $11 million deal he signed on July 1.
“My family, we wanted to stay here because we love this place,” Varlamov told The Post. “This is a great organization. This is where all the players want to play. I’m glad everything worked out for us and then I get a chance to stay for another four years.”
Varlamov’s $2.75 million annual salary is on the high end for a backup goaltender, but the Islanders would contend that is because he is one of the better backup goaltenders in the league.
Semyon Varlamov stops a puck in the second period in a game against the Washington Capitals at UBS Arena.Corey Sipkin for the NY POST
There is not much doubt that, after Varlamov turned in a .913 save percentage last season over 23 games, he’s good enough to start for a lot of teams.
Instead, he returned to a situation in which — if the Islanders are again chasing a playoff spot come March and April — there could again be a drastic split in starts between himself and Sorokin.
Varlamov said there haven’t yet been conversations about how the Islanders want to split up starts between the two netminders.
Even if there were, circumstances would dictate things more than plans could.
His logic for returning, though, didn’t have much to do with role or even with Sorokin.
“I think it’s about the team, obviously about this organization,” Varlamov said. “I love this team and I want to be a part of this team. I think this team is going in the right direction and we have a chance to win, especially with [Sorokin] in the net, because he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL and he’s proven that over the years.”
Arnaud Durandeau has gotten the first crack at playing alongside Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal, though nothing should be inferred from that, as coach Lane Lambert said the organization wants to give young players a chance early in camp.
Arnaud Durandeau of the New York Islanders skates up ice with the puck in the first period in an NHL hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on Feb. 24, 2023. Paul J. Bereswill
Still, he gave Durandeau some praise following practice Friday.
“I like his speed,” Lambert said of the Quebecois, who played four games with the Islanders last season. “And when he gets an opportunity, he has an ability to score. And he’s proven that here the last couple days.”
Kyle Palmieri (maintenance) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (illness) both missed practice.
Tanner Fritz, who played 42 games with the Islanders from 2017-19, skated with the NHL group in Pageau’s absence.