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Staple Mailbag: Sorokin wins cup, Grabovski back in Belarus

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Some good news and bad news from across the pond.

Gold Medal - 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship
This guy.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Newsday’s Arthur Staple is brave enough to take questions from Islanders fans for a bi-weekly mailbag article. This week, the questions run the gamut from intangibles to impatience to Ilya Sorokin.

That last one is the 21-year old Islanders drafted goalie currently playing for CSKA in the KHL. Named the league’s best goaltender last year after posting crazy numbers and leading his team to Game 7 of the Gagarin Cup final, Sorokin is probably a frequent guest of Staple’s Twitter mentions. The specific question everyone wants answered is when is he getting his lanky Russian ass over here?

Staple presents that question this week and the answer is interesting in that the Islanders are keeping a very, very close eye on their prospect.

@tommy_tas: will Ilya Sorokin ever make it to the states and play in the Isles system?

Staple: That’s the hope. A couple of Isles front-office members were in Finland last week for the Karjala Cup, where Sorokin was lights out yet again for Russia. By all accounts the young goaltender had a terrific time at rookie camp -- I heard he went up and down the bus, personally thanking all of his fellow prospects for making him feel welcome. This is clearly someone who wants to be in the NHL and has a North America-based agent to help make it happen.

So I believe he’ll be here. Whether it’s next season or in 2018-19, that I can’t say as of now. But the Islanders think he’s coming and they also strongly feel he’s the best prospect they have.

Okay, so what is the Karjala Cup? It’s part of the European Hockey Tour, along with the IIHF World Championships and Spengler Cup, and was played last month in Helsinki. Russia won the tournament, going 3-0. They’ll host the tour’s next tournament, the Channel One Cup, in December.

Sorokin played in two of Russia’s three games, beating host Finland 5-1 in the first game and shutting out the Czech Republic in the final game 3-0 on Sunday. He had a cool .980 save percentage at the tournament although there might be some sample size issues in there.

It’s great to hear Sorokin enjoyed his time with the Islanders during rookie camp and that he sounds excited to come over to North America. As Staple notes, without any real transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL, that could be a couple of years.

It’s also weird to hear that people in the organization think he - and not any of the highly-touted forwards - is the team’s best prospect.

Back in Belarus

On the flip side is more bad news about Mikhail Grabovski, who Staple reports is back home in Belarus and will not play again this season.

@OlegKvasha What does Grabovski’s situation do to the ‘17-‘18 salary cap?

Staple: Not much as of now. Gotten a few queries about Grabovski, who last I checked was back in Belarus. He won’t be cleared to return this season, we’re just about certain of that. Still has concussion symptoms and as badly as he wants to play there’s no way the Islanders would allow that now.

The main issue for next season is his actual salary of $5.5 million vs. his $5 million cap hit. To trade those cap hits the way the Red Wings did with Pavel Datsyuk, it helps to have the actual salary be lower than the cap hit. Grabovski’s is higher, so any team that needs to get to the cap floor next season would need to shell out some dough, which seems unlikely.

So the guess is he’ll be on the Isles payroll next season and if they need the cap space, long term IR is available, same as now.

Grabovski’s been off the Islanders’ radar for a while now given his concussion issues dating back to last February. I don’t think anyone expected him to play this season anyway, but seeing him back in Europe just makes that even more sad.

There’s no telling how much better the Islanders would be with a healthy Grabovski in the top nine, playing either center or wing and driving possession. But he needs to think about his longterm health and family above all else.

The other questions Staple tackles include what the deals are with Anders Lee (needs more PP1 time) and Josh Bailey (still a first liner), the team’s desire to have Ryan Strome replace Frans Nielsen and the ever-elusive ACCOUNTABILITY! that everyone loves demanding.

Staple also includes another possible reason the Islanders waived P.A. Parenteau, but because I said my piece in the Mathew Barzal article from this morning, I’ll leave it alone.

Finally, there’s this, which is both encouraging and a little deflating. But we’ll see how they follow up Monday night’s win over Vancouver when they play the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday night.

Snow is fielding calls and offers daily. My sense is the Islanders still feel this is a winning roster and they’re not going to make sweeping changes just yet.