It was hard not to feel more than a twinge of disappointment a couple of minutes ago, when I learned that Washington Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov had just been re-assigned to the Hershey Bears of the AHL in order to make room for veteran netminder Jose Theodore to return to the roster.
Why is that? Well, for one thing, Theodore has been his inconsistent self all season long, posting a lackluster record of 8-6, a goals against average of 3.08 and a save percentage of .888. Safe to say, those aren't the sort of numbers that leave you convinced that Theodore, who is in the first year of a two-year $9 million contract, can lead the team into the playoffs. Certainly, it seems clear that Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau isn't convinced either, which is why the rest of the league has been seeing so much of career journeyman Brent Johnson in the Washington net thus far this season.
But with Theodore going down with a hip flexor last week, the Washington faithful got a great look at the future in Varlamov. All he did was win his first NHL start last Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada, yielding just one goal on 33 shots in a 2-1 win.
Last night, he followed up his successful debut with another victory, stopping 31 shots in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Washington at Verizon Center. The highlight: stopping Blues veteran Keith Tkachuk on a breakaway.
One thing seems clear to me: If this were an NHL with a different financial structure, I'm pretty convinced that the team would have found a way to keep Varlamov up with the big club for the remainder of the season. Then again, with the salary cap being what it is, I'm sure that every day that Varlamov stays with the Caps had been burning way too much salary cap room for comfort. If so, that's a shame, as it's clear to me that there's only one place Varlamov belongs, and that's in the NHL.