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Trade to Avalanche a perfect scenario for Varlamov

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- Semyon Varlamov donned a No. 1 Colorado Avalanche jersey Thursday inside the team locker room at the Pepsi Center, fitting because it's also symbolic of the goaltending role the club expects him to fill.

Acquired from the Washington Capitals on July 1, the 23-year-old Russian said he is relishing the challenge during his first appearance in Denver since the trade -- in what he said was his first full interview in English.

"Of course, every goalie wants to be No. 1," Varlamov said.

The Avalanche sent a first-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, along with a second-round selection in 2012 or 2013, to the Capitals in exchange for Varlamov, who has signed a three-year, $8.5 million contract.

The Avalanche have also signed free-agent goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 34, to a two-year, $2.5 million contract as a backup and mentor for Varlamov.

"I think we're going to help getting back in the playoffs," Varlamov said.

Varlamov, who was a restricted free agent, said the transaction caught him by surprise, even though injuries had cost him his status as Washington’s top goalie and there had been reports he was contemplating playing for a Kontinental Hockey League team in his native Russia.

"It was a big surprise for me, the trade to Colorado, but I'm glad to be here because when I was so young I remember the time when I was watching NHL games and I remember the super (playoff) series Detroit against Colorado," he said. "It's good; it's good for me. This is my favorite club; that's true."

Varlamov said former Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy was his favorite NHL player, adding: "I wanted to play here as a kid."

Asked about the KHL, he said: "I don't want to talk about that right now. It's none of my business. I want to just talk about the Avalanche."

Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said Thursday that he broached the possibility of a Varlamov trade with Capitals counterpart George McPhee after Washington was eliminated by Tampa Bay in the second round of the playoffs.

"Our plan was to bring in a young and upcoming player that could carry the load as a starting goaltender," Sherman said. "We feel fortunate that we did not have to use a young, core player off our current roster in order to acquire a player such as Semyon."

Sherman said he had more discussions with McPhee at the June 24-25 draft, "but that did not bear fruit."

They spoke again July 1, the opening day of free agency, and were able to hammer out a deal.

"It literally came down to Friday morning prior to the opening of free agency," Sherman said. "The situation arose and we went full force at it. You have to have contingency situations. You do the best preparation possible and hope that you're able to acquire your first planned scenario. If not, then you have to try and move on."

A 6-foot-2, 209-pounder, Varlamov was a first-round pick (No. 23) by the Capitals in 2006. He's posted a 30-13-12 record in 59 career games in three NHL seasons with four shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He owns a 10-9 record in 19 career playoff games with two shutouts, a 2.49 average and .915 save percentage.

Varlamov had an 11-9-5 record in 27 games last season with two shutouts, a 2.23 GAA and a .924 save percentage, but he missed nearly three months because of groin and knee injuries, and didn't play at all in the postseason.

"Injuries, everything is behind me," he said. "I see my future in Colorado right now. I see my big future in Colorado. I don’t want to be thinking about my injuries and what's happened last year and three years ago."

Varlamov said he's ready to face the pressure of high expectations and already has begun offseason training to prepare for camp in September. Varlamov, who has worked with Finnish goalie coach Jussi Parkkila, said he will train with Avalanche goalie coach Kirk McLean.

"I think he's a really good goalie coach and he's going to help me a lot," he said. "I'll work really hard this summer because this is going to be really hard for me … new club, new season. I just need to be ready. That's why I'm here right now in USA. That's why I start work early."

Varlamov said he plans to work out in Colorado for a month before heading to Russia to visit his parents for about two weeks. He'll return to Denver in mid-August to work with the Avalanche's trainers.
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