Islanders: Frustration at NHL in Ilya Sorokin situation

Ilya Sorokin #90 of the CSKA (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/ Getty Images)
Ilya Sorokin #90 of the CSKA (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/ Getty Images) /

Looks like Ilya Sorokin might not be able to sign in 2019-20 for the New York Islanders.

I was holding out hope that the NHL would do the right thing and allow teams to sign their unsigned draft picks to contracts for the 2019-20 season. I had held out hope that the New York Islanders were going to be able to sign Ilya Sorokin to his one-year ELC this year.

I mistakingly forgot that everything can be put on the bargaining table. Including current year deals. And it seems the NHL will get its way.

Just to be clear, teams have long been able to sign unsigned draft choices to current year contracts late in the year.

Just last year, the Colorado Avalanche signed Cale Makar out of college after winning the Hobey Baker Trophy. Makar would play ten games in the playoffs and got to burn a full year off his three-year ELC in the process.

The Columbus Blue Jackets also took advantage of being able to sign current year deals when they inked Vladislav Gavrikov on April 13, 2019, he played two games in the playoffs and the Blue Jackets were able to burn a year off his two-year ELC.

But now that it’s the Islanders turn to take advantage of the CBA, they get shut down.

Everything Is a Bargaining Chip

To be fair, this doesn’t only affect the New York Islanders negatively. There are a few teams that have prospects they were hoping to sign to current year deals:

  • Kiril Kaprizov – Minnesota Wild
  • Alex Romanov – Montreal Canadiens
  • Scott Perunovich – St Louis Blues
  • Ian Mitchell – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Grigori Denisenko – Florida Panthers

Some of these teams (Montreal, St Louis, Chicago, and Florida) actually signed sliding deals with their prospects. Deals that could start either in 2019 or in 2020. Something that really ticked off the NHL.

In the negotiations for an extension to the CBA, it seems a reduction in escrow is on the table starting with a cap at 20 percent and going down from there. The league will also allow players to go to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026. Two big-ticket items for the players.

In return, NHL wants changes to contract structures and limits on signing bonuses amongst other things. You can see why teams might want to cap signing bonuses.

Just look at the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re set to pay out $71,615,500 in signing bonus money. That’s an entire second cap (or 88 percent of the $81.5 million cap ceiling) that some teams on the lower end of the financial scale can’t take advantage of.

Part of the negotiation with the NHL was also curbing the practice of signing current year deals late in the year. The NHL doesn’t like them because they felt it’s unfair to the teams that couldn’t take advantage of the rule. They probably also didn’t like how it undermines the ELC process.

So by making it a bargaining chip they got it off the table, as well as other items, by giving something to the players in return.

Sorokin Decision

Now, not being able to sign his one-year ELC in 2019-20 doesn’t mean he’s never coming, but it adds a wrinkle to his immediate future with the Islanders.

Sorokin’s options for 2020-21 include:

  • Return to the KHL for a year (or more). And maybe play until the NHL returns late in 2020.
  • As Arthur Staple suggested today (subscription required), he could sign a deal for 2020-21 with a European clause so he can play in a league that has a transfer agreement with the NHL. And then head to the NHL when it starts up in late 2020.
  • Depending on what happens with the AHL, he could sign a deal for 2020-21, cut his teeth in the minors while he waits for the NHL to start up. His buddy Igor Shesterkin did the same for the Rangers just last year.

Of course, this could all change within minutes. That’s how fluid the negotiations between the league and it’s players are. But for now, it looks like he might not be able to sign that ELC this year.

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It’s peak Islanders that collective bargaining negotiations get in the way of them signing a top-tier prospect by taking advantage of rule countless teams have done before them.