This past offseason, the New York Islanders signed goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to not only a one-year ELC for 2019-20 but also signed him to a one-year deal worth $2 million or 2020-21. Before he even played an NHL game.
Now that he’s played a few games what’s likely in store for the Russian netminder in terms of his next contract?
His current deal is set to expire at the end of this season and with the Isles precarious salary cap situation, what will they hope to re-sign him for?
Predicting Ilya Sorokin’s next contract with the New York Islanders
Just today, the Vancouver Canucks extended goalie Thatcher Demko with a five-year $25 million extension ($5 million AAV). I bring that up to essentially to set the market for Sorokin.
Demko, who is also 25 years old, has 62 games of NHL experience across four seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Across those 62 games, he’s averaged a respectable 2.92GAA and 0.911 SV%.
This year is a particularly good one for the young Canucks goalie, in 25 starts he has a 12-12-1 record while averaging a 2.77GAA and 0.917SV%. In terms of underlying numbers, Demko is stopping 6.2 goals above expected. That ranks him sixth in the NHL, behind some pretty big names in the discipline.
Again, that’s just a setup to talk about Ilya Sorokin. We know that Sorokin is already on the books for $2 million this year and we now know the high-water mark for extending a young goalie is $5 million per year, so where does Sorokin fit?
In 12 games this year, Sorokin holds an 8-3-1 record with a 2.24 GAA and 0.911SV%. With 0.7 goals saved above expected, he isn’t near the top of the goalie tree, but he’s in the top half at least.
So the early results yield a promising return. Sorokin is still adapting to life in the NHL, but you can tell he’s a quick study. He’s taking the lessons on the ice (like that 5-0 welcoming by the Rangers in his first NHL start) and those off the ice by the Isles squad of top goalie coaches like Mitch Korn and Piero Greco.
Now, what does that mean for an extension?
Well, we already know that Sorokin won’t get the same number of starts as Demko is getting with the Canucks. Sorokin has half of the starts that Demko has this year. That’s already a huge disadvantage in terms of contract negotiations. Sorokin isn’t the starter yet, while Demko is.
And while Sorokin is allowing fewer goals (per game) than Demko, he’s also stopping fewer pucks (on average).
With just that information it’s hard to believe Sorokin will receive anything less than $3.5 million (AAV of course). That number can go up to $4 million if the Islanders believe he will be the starter in 2021-22.
Now, for how long?
It can’t be longer than five years. You never know what can happen with goalies. You can count on a single hand the number of 5+ year goalie deals that teams don’t currently regret: Jonathan Quick (10 years), Andrei Vasilevskiy (8 years), Tuukka Rask (8 years), John Gibson (8 years), Connor Hellebuyck (6 years). That’s it, that’s the list.
But when Lou finds his guy in nets he likes to lock him up long term. He signed Frederick Andersen to a five-year deal in Toronto and Cory Schneider to a seven-year deal in New Jersey. Sorokin’s deal will in no way go beyond five years, but I can see Lou going long-term with Sorokin.
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So if Lou is sure that Sorokin is his guy going forward, a long-term deal is absolutely possible. I’d have to think that Lou and his team of goalie experts have a good sense of what Sorokin could be at the NHL and how soon he can be that starter.
For me, based on everything I wrote, I think his next deal is likely four years and for $16 million ($4 million AAV).
That still leaves the team in a precarious position. They’ll have $7.786 million in cap space after the deal but have Beauvillier, Pelech, Bellows, and Golyshev as notable RFAs. That’s also with the team needing a replacement for Casey Cizikas and Andy Greene.
It’s enough room to get it all done with an extra move to clear out of Leo Komarov or Thomas Hickey’s contracts. But it will still be tight so maybe the number falls a little below $4 million? For now, I’ll just stick with it because it makes a lot of sense.