Islanders precarious position with pending RFAs piling up

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

The New York Islanders will now likely have four restricted free agents to sign for 2020-21.

Ilya Sorokin will be allowed to sign his one-year ELC with the New York Islanders, which adds more pressure on GM Lou Lamoriello to clear up as much cap space as possible for the 2020-21 NHL season.

With Sorokin likely signing for 2019-20 and burning his one-year ELC, the Islanders will now have four pending RFA’s needing deals for the 2020-21 NHL season.

The task was already difficult with three RFAs adding a fourth in Ilya Sorokin makes a difficult task all the more daunting.

The Four

Going into 2020-21, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews were already going to need deals. Barzal is coming off his three-year ELC where he won the Calder Trophy in 2018 and lead the team in points all three years.

Ryan Pulock is ending a two-year bridge deal worth $2 million a season. In those two years, he became the team’s top defenseman as the Isles put up the best defensive record in the league during the 2018-19 season and finished the 19-20 season with the sixth-best defensive record.

Devon Toews is also wrapping up a two-year bridge deal with a $700,000 cap hit per year. Making the leap to the NHL in 2018-19, Toews hasn’t looked back. He’s the team’s power-play quarterback and their best two-way defender.

All three are going to earn significant raises on their current deal. Mathew Barzal’s will certainly be the biggest. Figure the following ranges on cap hits for all three players:

  • Mathew Barzal: $7 million to $9 million
  • Ryan Pulock: $4 million to $5 million
  • Devon Toews: $3 million to $4 million

That’s roughly $14 to $18 million to sign all three. The Islanders only have $10.119 million in cap space for the 2020-21 season. And we haven’t yet counted Ilya Sorokin.


The NHL won’t allow Sorokin to play during the qualifying rounds or the playoffs. Although it’s not like Sorokin would have jumped into the squad and into a game for the play-in round or playoffs anyways.

But that means when it comes time to sign his post-ELC deal he will have played zero NHL games. His cap hit won’t be very high because of that. With that being said, his payout will have to be higher than what he could potentially make in the KHL.

Last season, Sorokin was said to be making $1.428 million (in US dollars) to play for CSKA Moscow. I figure that $2 million is going to be the minimum value for his post-ELC contract.

The KHL is going to have a hard cap for the 2020-21 season at roughly $13 million. Giving Sorokin a $2 million payout for CSKA would be around 15 percent of their cap. With some of the deals they already have on their books, giving Sorokin a big payout will be next to impossible for them.

With a $2 million hit, that raises the Islanders RFA bill around $16 or $20 million. And the Isles only have about half of that already. They’ll need to make upwards of $10 million in cap space to make it all work.

That’s not going to be easy.

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Without compliance buyouts that task is made a bit more complicated again. The options for the Islanders to clear up cap space aren’t numerous. Lou was already going to have to get creative, now he’ll have to get even more creative.