Islanders: Breaking down possible Ilya Sorokin contract
New York Islanders fans are waiting with bated breath for Russian goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to make his NHL debut. Assuming he comes, what would his contract look like?
Just a few weeks ago we were all in a panic after reports emerged that the New York Islanders had traded Ilya Sorokin’s rights to the Chicago Blackhawks. Those reports were eventually proven to be false. But in the few minutes where it was real, Islanders fans were straight up not having a good time.
And rightfully so. The acquisition of Semyon Varlamov (and loss of Robin Lehner) in the offseason was largely seen as a nod to Sorokin with the two Russian goalies being friends. Even if Lou Lamoriello shrugged it off as a “fringe benefit”. Losing Sorokin so soon after bringing in Varlamov would be a huge blow to the Islanders future plans.
Thankfully, those wicked whispers turned out to be false and Ilya Sorokin is still in the Islanders system. The last bit of news we heard on the Sorokin front was that a contract was in the works between Sorokin and the Islanders.
What would that contract look like?
As with any discussion about contracts in the NHL we start with comparables. For Ilya Sorokin that comparable is New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
In 117 games in the KHL, Sherterkin held a 1.68 GAA and 0.935SV%. Sorokin has averaged a 1.69GAA and a 0.930SV% in 245 career KHL games. They hold comparable pre-NHL numbers.
The Ranger’s Russian goalie carries a $925,000 cap hit on a two-year entry-level contract. Shesterkin has the max $850,000 base salary, the maximum signing bonus of $92,500, and the maximum performance bonus of $2.85 million. For a total value of $7.55 million (if he hits all his bonuses of course).
Shesterkin also has a European Assignment Clause in his deal. Meaning that he could play in the KHL, rather than play for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL for example.
Sorokin will likely have a carbon copy of Shesterkin’s contract. Except when it comes to the length. As a 24-year-old when he signs, his ELC only has to be for a single year according to article 9.1 (b) of the NHL CBA.
So what are bonuses?
In the CBA there are A and B bonuses and they have caps on the amount each can payout.
‘A’ bonuses are maxed out at $850,000 and can be paid out for hitting a number of pre-established categories during the ELC. For goalies ‘A’ bonuses can be paid out for:
- Minutes played
- Goals against average
- Save percentage
- Making the All-Rookie Team
- Selected to (or play in) the All-Star game
- Names All-Star Game MVP
You can see the minimums for each of those categories in Exhibit 5 of the NHL CBA (page 327). But essentially, the Islanders and Sorokin’s camp can negotiate up to $850,000 of bonus money any number of categories. A single category can’t exceed $212,500 of bonus money.
For example, the two sides can decide to pay out $212,500 for 50 wins, $212,500 for 10 shutouts, $212,500 for playing over 3,000 minutes, and another $212,500 for making the All-Rookie Team.
Usually, these bonuses aren’t within reach for most players. They usually never get paid out.
‘B’ bonuses can be paid by the league and by the team. The ones paid out by the league aren’t negotiated as part of a contract, every player on an ELC can get them, and they don’t ever impact the cap.
But team negotiated ‘B’ bonuses can impact the cap. Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks what happened when Panarin hit his team negotiated ‘B’ bonuses.
The most a team can payout in ‘B’ level bonuses is $2 million. Teams can pay out that $2 million for a number of awards (all listed in the NHL CBA in Exhibit 5 on page 328) or if a player (in this case a goalie) finishes in the top five in GAA, SV% or wins.
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How the team and Sorokin’s people agree on what will be paid out in bonuses still seems to be part of the discussion.
Lou doesn’t typically like to hand out performance bonuses. But if he wants to bring in Sorokin the old school GM is going to have to give in and give Sorokin the max, just like Shesterkin.