Caps trade Semyon Varlamov to Avs

Updated: July 2, 2011, 1:14 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche made their opening moves in what's sure to be a busy free-agency period for the team, acquiring goalie Semyon Varlamov from the Washington Capitals on Friday and agreeing to a four-year deal with defenseman Jan Hejda.

In exchange for Varlamov, the Capitals will receive the Avalanche's first-round pick in 2012 and a second-rounder in 2012 or 2013.

Colorado was in desperate need of a goalie, especially after not tendering a qualifying offer to Brian Elliott and Peter Budaj being an unrestricted free agent.

Varlamov was 11-9-5 last season for Washington with two shutouts. The young Russian's 2.23 goals-against average was among the best in the league, nearly rivaling that of the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas (2.00), Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo (2.11) and Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne (2.12).

"In Semyon Varlamov we are acquiring a highly touted NHL goaltender," Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said. "At 23 years old, he is regarded as a solid and talented netminder by our staff. We definitely feel we have addressed our top priority this offseason and for many years to come."

Varlamov has been playoff-tested, too, appearing in 19 postseason games despite his young age. In 2008-09, he became only the fourth goaltender in league history to earn a playoff shutout prior to his 21st birthday, joining the likes of Harry Lumley, Patrick Roy and Carey Price.

"Semyon is an elite goaltender who is a key part of our future success," said executive adviser Joe Sakic, a former Avalanche great who was brought on board to help get the team back on track.

However, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports, the 23-year-old Varlamov is considering a move to the KHL, where he will presumably make more money but risk becoming an NHL afterthought.

"I think this is a better deal for us than losing the player to the KHL," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog. "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."

A source told ESPN.com on Thursday that the Capitals were not considering trading the unhappy goalie, who did not accept Washington's qualifying offer. According to the source, Varlamov would have liked the team to present him with a more lucrative deal.

"It's been explained to Varly that Tim Thomas didn't perform the way he expected last year and it didn't go the way he wanted, but he came back and won a Vezina and won a Cup this year. Not bad," Capitals general manager George McPhee told local reporters at the team's practice facility Tuesday. "So the opportunity's there."

The Avalanche are coming off a season in which they won their fewest games (30) since relocating to Denver from Quebec before the 1995-96 season.

With money to spend and holes the fill, the Avalanche might be quite active in free agency. They picked up a solid defenseman in Hejda, who played last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 33-year-old suited up in 77 games during the 2010-11 season, scoring five goals and 15 assists.

Hejda's signing comes on the heels of the team agreeing to terms with defensemen Ryan O'Byrne and Matt Hunwick on Thursday.

The Capitals signed center Jeff Halpern to a one-year deal worth $825,000. The 35-year-old played six seasons in Washington and was captain during the 2005-06 season. He has since played for the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens.

Halpern has 142 goals and 200 assists during his NHL career.

The Capitals also signed forward Joel Ward and defenseman Roman Hamrlik. Ward received a four-year deal worth $12 million, while Hamrlik's deal was for two years and $7 million.

Ward, 30, had 10 goals and 29 points in 80 games for the Predators last season. Hamrlik, 37, had 34 points in 79 games for the Canadiens last season.

Information from ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and The Associated Press was used in this report.