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Caps Trade Varly; Add Key Free Agents

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 31: Goalie Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Washington Capitals looks on during practice for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic between the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 31, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    The Capitals' trio of young, promising goaltenders is now down to a duo.

    Semyon Varlamov, the 23-year-old netminder who seemed to fall out of favor with the Caps last season, was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche Friday -- the first day NHL teams could sign free agents.

    In return for Varlamov, a restricted free agent, the Caps somehow managed to swindle the Avs out of a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in either '12 or '13. The Avs then reportedly signed Varlamov to a two-year contract worth about $5.5 million.

    The trade left many pundits scratching their heads, because as a restricted free agent, if Varlamov signed an offer sheet for that amount with the Avs without being traded, Colorado only would have owed the Caps a second-round pick.

    Of course, there was always a chance that the Caps could have matched that offer and kept Varly.

    Combine that with the fact that this year's free agent pool for goaltenders looks more like a bathtub, and it seems like Caps' GM George McPhee played his poker hand very, very well. It seems like he had the Avs sweating that they'd exit Day 1 of free agency without a quality netminder.

    And, of course, there was a chance that Varly would have bolted for a rich contract in Russia's KHL.

    Owner Ted Leonsis commented on the trade on his blog, but did so without actually naming Varlamov by name, which seemed a bit weird. On first reference he called him "a young goaltender," and then just went with the ever-popular "the player."

    "I think this is a better deal for us than losing the player to the KHL," Leonsis wrote. "The player wanted assurances that we couldn’t make to him. I am disappointed in the overall optics here but it is always better to take the high road and we wish the player well with his new team."

    Who knows, maybe he just didn't know how to spell "Semyon" or "Varlamov," which is quite understandable.

    So that leaves the Caps with Michal Neuvirth, 23, and Braden Holtby, 21, in net. There's still a possibility that the team will make an offer to a veteran netminder in order to provide some stability in net should Neuvirth get injured. Possibilities on the free agent market include, well ... Tomas Vokoun and not much else.

    In other free agency news, the Capitals signed winger Joel Ward to a four-year deal worth a reported $12 million and Roman Hamrlik for two years at a reported $7 million.

    Ward, 30, is an aggressive forechecker and has a strong work ethic, but often lacks in his scoring and passing ability. However, he was able to cash in this offseason thanks to an impressive playoff run with Nashville, as he racked up 13 points (seven goals) in 12 games.

    Hamrlik, 37, brings age and wisdom to the blue line. And it appears that his 18 seasons in the league haven't slowed him down just yet. He was a plus-6 for Montreal last season while playing in 79 games. He scored five goals and added 29 assists. He's an impressive penalty killer and can even fill in on the power play when necessary, although don't expect him to replace a Mike Green on the point. At this point in his career he's defense first; any offense is a bonus.

    The Caps also picked up local boy (now aged veteran) Jeff Halpern for one year (reportedly $825,000) and lost Boyd Gordon to Phoenix.