With each passing day of training camp, the more likely it is that New York Islanders starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov will not be ready to go for the start of the 2021-22 season on Oct. 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 33-year-old veteran has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that continues to improve, but head coach Barry Trotz admitted that he is being “overly cautious” about bringing Varlamov back into the fold. He has yet to skate with the team during camp.
“I really, honestly am not concerned with overall health. I’m just concerned that he gets to 100% so we’re not dealing with any nagging stuff,” Trotz said of Varlamov. “If I’m overly cautious or we are to get him 100%, I’d rather go that route at the start of the season… I’ve been through this before where nagging things keep nagging…
“If he needs two weeks now, give him two weeks now instead of a schedule in the middle of a schedule where we’re playing four, five games a week. That’s really the only thing. Do I have any concerns about him long-term? Not at all. This is getting him 100% for the long haul.”
Varlamov has been one of the NHL’s best backstops behind a stout Islanders defense over the last two seasons. He’s 38-25-10 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average while serving as the team’s No. 1 goalie during their two straight runs to the Stanley Cup semifinals.
The Russian netminder is also serving as the mentor of Ilya Sorokin — the franchise’s goalie of the future who continues to assimilate to life in North America after coming over from Russia last year.
Sorokin appeared in 22 games during his rookie season last year, winning 13 of them while posting a .918 save percentage and 2.16 goals-against average.
He’ll be the main man in the crease for however long Varlamov’s regular-season absence lasts.
“I’m not too concerned,” Trotz said. “One way or the other, to be quite honest, if we didn’t have Sorokin in the fold, I’d be a little concerned.
“We’ll take our time. If Varly’s not quite ready, obviously Ilya will start. I’m good with that.”