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Varlamov glad to join franchise he rooted for growing up in Russia

DENVER - Playing for Colorado wasn't a hard sell for goalie Semyon Varlamov since he was an Avalanche fan growing up in Russia.

"Patrick Roy, he was my favourite player in the NHL," Varlamov said of the Hall of Fame goalie. "I wanted to play here when I was a kid."

Varlamov got his wish last Friday when the Avalanche acquired the 23-year-old from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2012 draft and a conditional second-round pick in '12 or '13.

The Avalanche introduced their new No. 1 goalie Thursday, nearly a week after flurry of moves reshaped their roster. In addition to Varlamov, Colorado signed free-agent goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, defenceman Jan Hejda and forward Chuck Kobasew.

The Avalanche also the drafted six players in last month's draft, most notably forward Gabriel Landeskog and defenceman Duncan Siemens.

"We laid out our priorities, we put our plan in place and we're confident we addressed those priorities and the needs for this hockey club," general manager Greg Sherman said. "We feel like we have a better hockey club than when we started the draft."

Varlamov was the player the team targeted early after finishing its most disappointing season since moving to Denver in 1995. Adding the 34-year-old Giguere, who won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim four years ago, gives the club insurance for a goaltender who dealt with nagging injuries in three seasons with the Capitals.

"We wanted to surround Semyon in an environment where he could be successful and we wanted to bring in a veteran presence, a calming presence for him," Sherman said. "We feel confident having a former Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner as his backup, who welcomes that role."

Sherman said he started talking to the Capitals about Varlamov soon after the regular season ended. Varlamov had been Washington's top goalie but knee and groin injuries paved the way for Michael Neuvirth to take over as the starter.

That didn't deter the Avalanche, who signed Varlamov to a three-year, US$8.5-million deal after trading for him.

"Our plan was to bring in a player that was young and up and coming that could carry the load as a starting goaltender," Sherman said. "We feel fortunate we didn't have to use a player off our current roster to acquire Semyon.

"You look at his size, you look at his style of play and where he is in his development. He's a former first-round draft pick in 2006. He's five years into pro hockey and it's about that time where these guys are about to take that next step. This is a guy that's capable of carrying the load."

Varlamov made his NHL debut in 2008-09, playing six regular season games but took over as the starting goalie in the playoffs. He was 7-6 with a 2.53 in 13 of the Capitals' 14 playoff games that year.

The next year he was 15-4-6 in 26 games and finished 11-9-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average in 27 games last year.

He didn't want to revisit his injuries or his time in Washington.

"Everything's behind me," he said. "I see my big future in Colorado. I don't want to think about my injuries of last year or two years ago."

Varlamov plans on going to Russia before getting ready for the new season.

"I'm going to stay here for one month and then I'm going to go back home and see my parents for a couple of weeks," he said. "I'll come back to Denver by the 15th of August and start working with a trainer. I will work a lot this summer. A new club, a new season, I need to be ready."


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