The New York Islanders have had a better summer than they could have hoped for.
Both on and off the ice, the organization has received — and continued — to make strides towards the future. Those strides include a fully healthy squad ready to return for Phase 3 (full training camp) this coming Monday, getting back their most important player in d-man Adam Pelech, and seeing their future home at Belmont Park becoming more of a reality with each passing day.
But now they have a chance to complete their trifecta even in the midst of the crazy time we’re living in now with the coronavirus pandemic.
With the news yesterday of a extended CBA between the NHL and NHLPA — which allows teams to officially sign their European imports and unsigned draft choices to contracts for the 2019-20 season — the Isles are now able to sign Ilya Sorokin.
Sorokin, the 25-year-old Russian goalie phenom, has been the talk of Islanders country for years. Drafted in 2014, Sorokin has been playing in his native Russia the last five years, becoming a legend for KHL powerhouse, CSKA Moscow. He has long been regarded as the best goalie in the world not playing in the NHL.
Fans had heard and read about how dominant he had become with the hope he would finally decide to make the transition to the States one day. Sorokin made one appearance on Long Island for an Isles rookie camp four years ago and dazzled. After that, he all but disappeared. But his name continued to be in the back of Islander fans’ minds for a long time.
There was hope back in 2018 Sorokin might finally come over following his contract ending with CSKA; that was dashed when he signed a one-year extension. Despite that, it seemed Sorokin was signaling he wasn’t totally set on staying in his homeland long-term. Things began to change once Lou Lamoriello took over running the Islanders. There’s been rumors regarding Sorokin not being in total love with the former regime headed by Garth Snow, the g.m. who drafted him.
This year Lamoriello was given all indication on several occasions that Sorokin would indeed make his way to Long Island. Lamoriello even doubled-down on the notion in a Q&A with season ticket holders in March. Everything seemed it was full speed ahead when, on April 12th, it was reported that Sorokin would indeed sign with the Isles once his contract expired on April 30th. Then came the virus, which threw a monkey wrench into the team’s and Sorokin’s plans.
The NHL, because of the changing landscape and question marks regarding finishing the season, made the decision not to allow organizations to sign their picks or European prospects and allow them to play if the season did resume. This implemented rule sent Sorokin, his agent Dan Milstein — whom he switched to in early June — and the Isles into a holding pattern. That was up until yesterday’s development.
Once the CBA is ratified by the players, the organization will have a 53-hour window to strike a deal with Sorokin. And according to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, the Isles appear extremely ready to get a deal done.
Now it’s on the Islanders and Sorokin to get pen to paper and make this summer one of their most important in recent memory.
Very little needs to be added about what a deal with Sorokin would mean. His name signed on the dotted line, means the Isles’ long, arduous search for their next great franchise goalie would finally be over.
And even if he doesn’t get the opportunity to play — the NHL made it clear no new players signed will be able to join their club for the modified playoffs when they begins early next month — Sorokin would get the opportunity to get acclimated to Long Island and be around the team, which will make the transition from overseas that much more easier. Plus, having him get right to work with goalie guru Mitch Korn will allow him the benefit of figuring out what he needs to work or change in his game for the upcoming season. The last point deals with the possibility of Sorokin not playing a game in over ten months, if the NHL does begin the 2020-21 season in December or January.
The amount of twist and turns that have come with the Sorokin saga could have been made into a full-length feature flick by now. All that’s left is getting a deal done with him and the movie will finally have its long, awaited ending.
Once it happens, the Isles will have completed their trifecta for their summer and can turn their attention to an even bigger prize — a Stanley Cup.