The New York Islanders signed Ilya Sorokin so now what? Here’s what you need to know.
After years of “will-he-won’t-he” Ilya Sorokin has finally signed with the New York Islanders. The Russian goalie with video game-like numbers is finally coming to the Island.
But there are still a number of questions from the fan base about the goalie and his situation with the Islanders. Namely, when will he become an unrestricted free agent, when can he play for the Isles, and (for some reason) should we be
hyped for a goalie who’s never played an NHL game before?
In less than 24 hours, Ilya Sorokin signed two one-year contracts with the New York Islanders. So I can see why some Islanders fans might be confused about his contract situation.
Sorokin’s first contract with the Islanders was his one-year entry-level contract. That deal was for the 2019-20 season and expires at the end of that year which would end in October (Oct. 9 or seven days after Stanley Cup Final, whichever is later).
The deal carries a $925,000 cap hit and no signing bonuses (signing bonuses weren’t allowed until Nov. 1). The cap hit is irrelevant, here.
To play in 2020-21 Sorokin was going to need a new contract. That’s what the second deal covers.
A day after signing his ELC with the Isles, Sorokin signed a single-year bridge deal worth $2 million. Sorokin got half in signing bonus ($1 million) and the other half as salary ($1 million).
Phase 3 & 4 Situation
So now that he’s under contract, can he play? No. Not yet anyway.
The NHL has allowed teams like the New York Islanders to sign players like Ilya Sorokin to a contract for the 2019-20 season but these players won’t be allowed to play in competitive matches during phase 4 of the NHL’s RTP plan.
They can, however, participate in phase 3 (training camp). They can even follow the team to the hub city (for the Islanders that’s Toronto) and practice with the team there.
Sorokin can’t hit the ice (in a competitive game) for the Isles until the 2020-21 season begins.
RFA v UFA
Signing a contract with the Islanders has done nothing to quell the innate anxiety we carry with us as Islanders fans. The Islanders just can’t have nice things and when they do have nice things it’s thanks to a CBA that forces those players to stay with us.
As soon as Sorokin signed the hot button question on most fan’s minds was: “When does he become a UFA?” As in: “When do I need to worry about him leaving us?”
We don’t have to worry for a while. After his 2020-21 contract is expired Sorokin will still be an RFA. And he will be an RFA for a bit yet.
According to the current CBA, a player becomes a free agent in the following circumstance:
"CBA Section 10.1 (a)(i): Any Player who either has seven (7) Accrued Seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of a League Year, shall, if his most recent SPC has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 30 of such League Year or June 30 of any prior League Year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent."
Sorokin won’t turn 27 until August 4, 2022, meaning he won’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency until June 30, 2023, if he isn’t already locked into a contract by then. So we’re good for a while.
Sorokin won’t be able to suit up for the Islanders until sometime in December when the 2020-21 season is likely to begin. Sorokin’s season stopped on March 8 when the KHL playoffs were canceled. That would be an eight-month layoff for Sorokin.
Could he play in the AHL, and would he be open to it? Yes on both counts.
According to Lou Lamoriello, Sorokin is ready to play in the AHL if it starts on time in October.
So he could get his reps in before the NHL season begins and before he shares the crease with Semyon Varlamov.
He’s never played an NHL game so are we overreacting to his arrival?
Here’s what we know about Sorokin pre-NHL. Over his 244 regular-season games in the KHL, he holds an average 1.70GAA and 0.930SV%. In the playoffs, he’s even better with a 1.34GAA and 0.940SV%. With 44 shutouts in 244 games played he’s blanked his opponents 18 percent of the time he’s hit the ice.
Of course, we don’t know for sure how he’ll fare in the NHL, but there have been enough talented goalies that have recently come to the NHL from the KHL where we can be fairly certain of his potential. Think of Sergei Bobrovsky, Igor Shesterkin, Semyon Varlamov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Here are their KHL stats compared to Sorokin.
*Insufficient data from Russian SuperLeague
All of these goalies have transitioned well to the NHL. Shesterkin is still new to his role in the NHL but a 2.52GAA and 0.0932SV% in 12 games is a great start to his NHL career.
In April, Igor Eronko – who is now Avangard Omsk’s Assistant GM – told the Athletic’s Arthur Staple (subscription required) that Sorokin can be as effective or even better than Shesterkin and could be the Isles starter in short order.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
He’s an incredible talent with an incredible skill set that should translate well to the NHL. I know we don’t often get nice things, but this time it sure seems like we have one.