When Russia invaded Ukraine back in February, many wondered how the NHL's Russian players would handle the situation. Four months have passed since then, and unfortunately, the two countries are still at war. Michael Russo and Dan Robson of The Athletic have accurately pointed out the fact that it's now the offseason and Russian players will want to return home which can prove to be troublesome. So how does that affect the New York Islanders?
Well, both of the Islanders goaltenders are Russian-born. Sorokin hails from Mezhdurechensk and Varlamov from Samara. After spending most of their time away from their families in the last few years due to deep playoff runs and COVID restricting travel, it's understandable that the two will want to see their families for the first time in a long time. The question becomes once the two enter Russia, will they be able to return?
"I think a lot of us are worried. I don’t know that anybody knows what’s going to happen. Hopefully there’s a resolution by then, a peaceful resolution, but you never know what could happen. I mean, they could be asked to stay or forced to stay or just there’s all kinds of outcomes that could happen. I think there’s a lot of questions but no answers."- Brian MacLellan
The decision of course will be left up to the players as NHL teams do not reserve the right to prevent them from returning to their homes.
"What am I going to do? Say no, you can’t go home? People want to go home. They want to see their families. They just want to be home regardless of what’s going on. I don’t blame him."- Bill Guerin on Kirill Kaprizov
It's an issue all 32 NHL GMs have in the back of their mind and it would impact the Islanders greatly if the Russian government decides to withhold Russian citizens' rights to return to North America. It's not out of the realm of possibility either. As reported by Slava Malamud, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov has been arrested in Moscow for "draft evasion."
"His crime was wanting to go to the NHL and thus displeasing his CSKA bosses. His punishment will be going to the military, perhaps even to the war."- Slava Malamud
At this time there's no real answer as to what will happen when players look to return to North America in August/September for training camp. However, if the United States or Canada takes a bigger stance against Russia, many teams could be impacted including the Islanders.