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Varlamov not trying to 'replace anybody' with Islanders

Goalie doesn't feel pressure to fill skates left by Lehner, who was Vezina finalist last season

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Semyon Varlamov knows he has big skates to fill as the No. 1 goalie for the New York Islanders this season.

But Varlamov, who signed a four-year, $20 million contract (average annual value of $5 million) on July 1, said he doesn't feel any pressure replacing Robin Lehner, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist in his one season with New York and won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance after he came clean about going to rehab to help deal with mental health struggles that led to suicidal thoughts and drug and alcohol addictions.

Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks the same day Varlamov joined the Islanders.

"I'm not here to replace anybody," Varlamov said at the Islanders practice facility after an informal skate Wednesday. "I'm here to try to help this team win the Stanley Cup one day. That's my goal.

Video: 31 in 31: New York Islanders 2019-20 season preview

"I'm happy for Robin, he did an incredible job last year. The Islanders had a great season. The fans were very excited about the season, and I'm sure they're looking forward to having another good year."

Varlamov was originally targeted last offseason by the Islanders, who were unable to reach a trade agreement with the Colorado Avalanche, where the 31-year-old went 20-19-9 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

However, Varlamov, who has won 213 games in 11 NHL seasons with the Avalanche and Washington Capitals, is confident he can once again be the goalie who was a Vezina finalist in 2013-14, when he led the NHL with 41 wins and had a .927 save percentage in 63 games for Colorado.

Varlamov said he has already had dinner with Islanders director of goaltending Mitch Korn and goalie coach Piero Greco, and believes they can help him become one of the top goalies in the NHL again playing behind a defense that allowed 191 goals last season, the fewest in the NHL.

"I'm excited," said Varlamov, a first-round pick (No. 23) by the Capitals in the 2006 NHL Draft. "We've had a chance to meet each other before training camp. I think it's important. I'm looking forward to working with those two guys. They're very experienced goalie coaches. I'm looking forward to learning something new from them."

Although the Islanders are returning a roster similar to the one that finished second in the Metropolitan Division last season, Varlamov will see at least one familiar face. Center Derick Brassard, who signed a one-year contract with New York on Aug. 21, played the final 20 games of the regular season with Varlamov and the Avalanche after being acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers and nine in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He's my buddy," Varlamov said of Brassard. "We had some good times playing for the Avalanche. We sat together on the plane. He's a nice guy. Great guy, great player."

The Islanders will have their first official practice of the season Sept. 13. In the meantime, Varlamov will continue to learn his new surroundings, admitting it's difficult to appreciate Long Island and what it has to offer as a visiting player.

"When you play for another team, you come here and you stay at the Marriott," Varlamov said. "All you see is the [Nassau] Coliseum and the hotel, and you're thinking, 'This is not the best area to live.' With our schedule, it's hard to go around and explore Long Island. But we've been here three weeks, and it's a beautiful place. I'm enjoying it.

"I absolutely love this place. Long Island is beautiful. It's a beautiful place to live. My family's very excited to move here; we've already found a place. Everything's starting to settle in. I just can't wait to start training camp."

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