The New York Islanders have been the Cinderella story in the NHL so far this season. A big part of the Isles success this season has been about their goaltending. However, top prospect Ilya Sorokin could impact if Robin Lehner comes back to the island.
Last summer Lehner found himself on the free agent market without a ton of interest. Approaching his late twenties, Lehner was coming off a sub-par year in Buffalo.
Buffalo decided to move on from Lehner which was quite a statement since three years before that when the Sabres acquired him he was considered to be their number one netminder for years to come.
Lehner Story Book Season
The Isles didn’t have a lot of options in regards to adding a second goalie to go along with Thomas Greiss last July 1st. Given the lack of options, Lou Lamoriello took a chance on Lehner and signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million dollar deal.
Clearly, this was Lehner’s last chance to show he is a number one goalie in the NHL. Boy has Lehner done that so far this season. While Lehner has split the time in net with Greiss, the big Swedish goalie has been one of the league leaders in goals-against average and save percentage (2.17 goals against & .928 save percentage after Sunday’s win versus Arizona).
But what now? With Lehner scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent come July 1, will he come back? Whether or not Lehner comes back could be decided by Ilya Sorokin and not Lamoriello.
Since he was drafted by the Isles in the third round in 2014, Islander fans have been hearing about Sorokin. Not only have the fans heard about the star Russian goalie, but they have been anxiously waiting for him to come to Long Island.
To say Sorokin has been dominating the KHL is an understatement. The 23-year old goalie has been nothing short of amazing over in Russia.
This season the 6’2″, 167 lbs netminder has been ridiculous posting a 28-6-4 record along with 1.16 goals against and a .940 save percentage. He has been even better in the playoffs as his team is 8-1 in their first nine postseason games with Ilya posting 1.00 goals against.
Sorokin has one more year left on his KHL deal or does he? Can Lou get Sorokin to come over to Long Island for next season?
According to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple (subscription required), Sorokin could buy out the final year of his KHL deal.
If Sorokin stays in Russia next year then that opens the door for Lamoriello to sign Lehner this off-season. Greiss is only signed for one more season after next year, so if Sorokin comes over the year after next (2020-21 season) the Isles can then go with a Lehner-Sorokin tandem. Keep in mind Greiss will be 34 after next season.
However, if Sorokin can come to the NHL next year that doesn’t leave a spot for Lehner unless the Isles trade Greiss.
So what happens with Sorokin will most likely decide if Lehner is wearing blue and orange next season.