Why Semyon Varlamov chose KHL over Washington Capitals

Last week I reported that the Washington Capitals' restricted free-agent goaltender Semyon Varlamov was unlikely to re-sign.

I also said that the resolution will take place before July 1. And this is the way things are turning out to be.

It was foreseeable that there would be a war for Varlamov in the KHL. Before his departure for the NHL a few years ago, Lokomotiv Yaroslav kept his rights.

Thus, it only made sense that Lokomotiv would be the first team in line to get Varlamov back. But KHL heavyweight SKA St. Petersburg said 'not so fast.'

It was evident that the war for Varlamov between the two clubs was brewing, especially considering the fact that KHL President Medvedev, who also happens to be SKA's president, and Lokomotiv's president are sort of enemies. Lokomotiv wouldn't trade Varlamov's rights to SKA.

So SKA got creative.

SKA filed a complaint with the League seeking Varlamov's rights because the player left Lokomotiv at the time the KHL didn't exist and, therefore, upon expiration of Varlamov's Russian contract he was a free agent. Lokomotiv released an official statement today stating under no circumstances will they trade Varlamov's rights because they want to sign the goaltender themselves.

Judging from the fact that Varlamov's Russian agent joined SKA in filing the initial complaint, Varlamov wants to play for SKA, the team reportedly offering close to $4 million. Lokomotiv's offer is thought to be closer to the $2-million mark.

The League will decide on the matter tomorrow.

In the meantime, Varlamov has made a decision to leave the NHL and go to the KHL. His Russian agent Vyacheslav Makhrenskiy said the following to Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov:

"Varlamov has offers from Washington and from Russia. At this moment Varlamov chose the KHL. But exactly which club I cannot tell you."

From the interview:

Q. Where is Semyon right now?

MAKHRENSKIY: "He left for America on Wednesday."

"That means that he agreed to the NHL offer?

"No, no. Semyon wants to work out with Hershey's coach, who gets him ready every offseason. This specialist also works in the National Football League. He has to improve Varlamov's physical conditioning working on the ground and in the gym. And when Semyon comes back, which will be in mid-July, he will start on ice training with Jussi Parkkila, the goaltending coach Semyon has been working with for 4 years."

[It should be noted that Parkkila is also SKA's goaltending coach].

There is a stereotype that Varlamov is often injured. But his father told Sovetsky Sport that this is because he was improperly treated [by the doctors] in Washington. Do you agree?

"Everything is good with his health! When Semyon came back to Russia after the season we conducted a very thorough [medical] exam. There were no scars in places where the groin was injured.

"Actually, there are problems with medical care in Washington. Doctors in Russia are better. It happened when the Capitals' doctor says 'Everything is alright, let him play.'  Semyon feels that his knee is still hurting. But he goes out to play, and then he's injured again. And the injury is not that serious, but he couldn't play again."

Has it ever happened that Washington kept healthy Varlamov on the bench?

"It's clear why it was done. The Capitals were getting ready for the new negotiations. But they didn't expect that Semyon could pick Russia. Washington management thought that they were in charge of the situation. But it turned out not to be the case."

• • •

Of course, nothing is certain until Varlamov signs on the dotted line. He can't do it until Friday. But the frustration mounted for him over the entire last season when there was little communication from the Capitals, according to his camp, regarding the new contract and the prospects.

Whether leaving for the KHL is the right decision is debatable. Varlamov wants to play in the NHL. He wants to play in the best league in the world, but not sit on the bench. Perhaps requesting a trade would have been a better option for him.

Of course, that doesn't mean his request would even be considered.

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