One unfortunate incident for one has turned into a great opportunity for another as well as an entire organization. For the Colorado Avalanche, starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov is set to miss the rest of the season after a visit to the doctor resulted in a decision to do surgery on his hip that has been bothering him.
It is no secret at this point to how much the Avalanche have struggled this season, currently with the worst record in the league, and in line to have the biggest odds to win the draft lottery.
Part of the problem has been the goaltender, with Varlamov posting some of the worst numbers in the league. Of all goalies that have played at least 1,000 minutes at 5v5 (according to Corsica.Hockey), Varlamov has the worst save percentage (SV%), medium-danger SV%, goals share above average (GSAA) and goals against per 60 (GA/60).
What this does though is makes things potentially easier on the Avalanche when it comes to the expansion draft. With the year that both goalies have had, it was unlikely that the new Vegas team was going to select one from the Avalanche, especially with other interesting names likely out there for the Golden Knights.
Each team can only pick one goalie, leaving the other open to being selected by Vegas. For Colorado, they had an interesting decision on their hand before the Varlamov injury. Varlamov has had some good years for the Avalanche but has seen a decrease in his SV% in each of his last four seasons.
Pickard is just 25 and some still see him as a potential starting option down the road. Protecting Pickard, and a decent year from Varlamov – who was drafted by the Washington Capitals while new Vegas General Manager George McPhee was in charge – would have been an intriguing option for the next expansion team.
Now, while Varlamov still could be a target depending on who is exposed in the end, seems far from an ideal draft candidate coming off the worst season of his career, as well as an injury that ended his year.
Thinking this way, Joe Sakic doesn’t have a decision to make, as it would make the most sense to just protect Pickard, not knowing what next year could potentially bring for Varlamov.
Vegas owner Bill Foley wants to bring the Stanley Cup home quickly, and an option like Varlamov – surrounded by the right pieces – might be able to put them in a position to do so. After the injury, though, there are certainly going to be a lot safer options to go after.
Finalizing who will be protected is going to be a very hard process for some teams, and some good names are going to be up for being drafted by Vegas. For the Avalanche, one of their decisions became that much easier.