"In Semyon Varlamov we are acquiring a highly touted NHL goaltender," Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said in a statement. "At 23 years old, he is regarded as a solid and talented netminder by our staff. We definitely feel we have addressed our top priority this offseason and for many years to come."
Varlamov was a first-round pick in 2006 and has competed with Michal Neuvirth, a second-round choice in the same draft, for the "goaltender of the future" tag in Washington ever since. The 23-year-old Russian goaltender has appeared in 59 regular-season games and 19 postseason contests for the Capitals.
He replaced Jose Theodore in net for Washington during the 2009 and 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but missed a large portion of the 2010-11 campaign because of injury. With Theodore gone, Varlamov and Neuvirth were competing for the starting job, and it was Neuvirth who played every minute during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Capitals.
Colorado traded No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson to Ottawa, and the Avalanche did not qualify restricted free agent Brian Elliott. Peter Budaj is also an unrestricted free agent. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported Colorado was in discussions with veteran Tomas Vokoun, considered to be the top unrestricted free agent on the market at the position.
"Semyon is an elite goaltender who is a key part of our future success," Avalanche Executive Advisor/Alternate Governor Joe Sakic said in a team press release. "Avalanche fans should be very excited with this acquisition, as we all are."
The first-round pick in 2012 is Colorado's selection. The second-round choice will either be Boston's 2012 pick, which Colorado previously acquired, or the Avalanche's second-rounder in 2013.
Varlamov was reportedly planning on playing this season in the KHL. The Russian news agency Sovetsky Sport reported Wednesday that Varlamov would sign with a KHL club, but it was unclear if the deal would be with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv or SKA St. Petersburg.
Neuvirth is likely to be joined on the Washington roster next season by the team's third top young goalie prospect, 21-year-old Braden Holtby, unless the Capitals add a veteran to back up Neuvirth.