New York Islanders fans have long awaited to hear the news and the day has finally come. Ilya Sorokin is coming to New York and is expected to join the Islanders as soon as possible.
This doesn’t mean that in the event the National Hockey League resumes play for the 2019-20 season, Sorokin could participate. The goaltender would have to wait to play until the 2020-21 NHL season begins.
The Islanders and Sorokin have had a complicated relationship, to say the least. He was a third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was drafted just one round before close friend and rival goaltender, Igor Shesterkin who transitioned to the NHL with the New York Rangers for the 2019-20 season.
Since being drafted, Sorokin has only played in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He had an opportunity to sign with the Islanders in 2017 but opted to sign a three-year extension with CSKA Moscow. With that came rumors that he didn’t like former general manager Garth Snow and that he didn’t want to be an Islander at all. At the end of the day, those statements, true or false, don’t matter and they were nothing but rumors.
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In addition, Sorokin had been rumored to be in several potential trades over the years. The Russian native was even in the news at the 2019 trade deadline. Some speculated that he wouldn’t sign with the Islanders, so they had to trade his rights before he became a free agent this summer. With that, he was linked to a trade with Chicago and even his teammates in Russia thought he was traded.
Sorokin also woke up to the news that he “demanded a trade from the Islanders” this past December.
Sorokin is no doubt the most anticipated goalie prospect the Islanders have had since Rick DiPietro in the early 2000s. He also comes with high risk since New York let Robin Lehner go to free agency in 2019 in order to sign fellow Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
However, despite all the risks and rumors over the years, one thing has never changed and that’s Sorokin’s talent. The 24-year-old goaltender has been dominant since stepping up to play in the KHL.
He first set foot in Russia’s top league when he was just 17 and played with Metallurg Novokuznetsk. In the five games he played, he sported a 2.77 goals-against average (GAA) and a .919 save percentage (SV%). In his draft year, Sorokin posted a 2.90 GAA and a .911 SV% over 27 games. His numbers since have only gotten better with CSKA. In a prospect update, The Hockey Writers went over his most recent accomplishments, including being second on the all-time list of KHL shutouts.
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Based on his accolades, it’s easy to forget that Sorokin is only 24. He has been selected for the KHL All-Star Game in every season since 2015-16. He has been selected as the goaltender of the month seven times in five seasons, he’s posted the most shutouts throughout the league in the 2018-19 (11) and 2019-20 (9) seasons, and in 2018 he and his countrymen won an Olympic Gold Medal.
What Happens Next?
So the situation is that Sorokin declined to sign an extension with CSKA and is on his way to New York. That’s great news, but the Islanders still have to sign him. With Thomas Greiss’ contract expiring on July 1, it is unlikely the Islanders keep him past this season. Assuming Greiss leaves in free agency, that would mean Sorokin goes straight to the NHL. The tandem would then be Sorokin and Varlamov until further notice.
Depending on Sorokin’s contract — which he can sign after April 30 when his KHL contract officially expires — it might be a very expensive duo. This would force Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello to get creative sooner rather than later. Remember, he still has to sign Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews to new contracts. All of this is after the newest Islander, Jean-Gabriel Pageau signed an extension for $5 million per year for the next six years. To put it lightly, it looks like it will be an expensive summer for the Islanders.
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So in the long run, the goaltending situation isn’t solved yet. However, it took a major step in the right direction when Sorokin decided to reject an extension in Russia and come to New York. Now, all that’s left to do is construct a contract and sign it when it’s in front of him.