Thanks to the NHL’s Return to Play plan revealed yesterday, we know how the Islanders could return to the ice later this summer. After a conference call today with Lou Lamoriello, we know that one long lost player will be joining them if and when things start again.
We also know someone who won’t be joining them. At least not yet.
Good news first: Adam Pelech, who tore his Achilles tendon in early January in a “freak accident” right before a game and was deemed out for the season shortly thereafter, will be available for the Islanders if the NHL opens training camps in early June. At the time of his most unfortunate injury, Pelech was the team’s most reliable defensive defenseman, coming a long way in a season and a half under Barry Trotz. Pelech and Ryan Pulock were a very effective top pair, and helped the Islanders start the season with the same stifling defense they enjoyed for the better part of last season. Losing him was also a large reason for their inconsistencies during the second half of this season, in which they went just 10-13-7.
“Adam is cleared to participate in the small number of people that are allowed on the ice, as if the injury never took place,” Lamoriello said. “He has clearance, so does Casey Cizikas. There are no injury of any player that I am aware of that should hold them back from participating immediately.”
Lamoriello said that Pelech had been permitted to rehab his knee during the NHL’s pause and will be ready for camp, whenever that is. Johnny Boychuk (eye) and Casey Cizikas (leg laceration) will also be ready for any training camp, so the Islanders will have a complete roster should the league actually get to the restarting phase (which is Phase 2. Or 3? I lost track).
There is no timetable yet for players returning to Long Island.
Lou, asked about Pelech's availability, says #Isles will have "every player available."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) May 27, 2020
Now, the bad news. And you already know who it’s about.
Ilya Sorokin’s status has become more complicated due to the NHL’s rule on not allowing new signees to join their teams when and if the qualifying rounds begin.
Arthur Staple makes the problem clear in his article today at The Athletic.
But the NHL has decided, due to the ongoing pause of the 2019-20 season, that any draft choices who have signed at the conclusion of their seasons, either KHL or NCAA, are not eligible until 2020-21. It’s a drastic change from the past decade, which featured numerous examples of draft picks who turned pro after their college seasons ended, signed right away and had an impact on the postseason — the Rangers’ Chris Kreider in 2012, Charlie McAvoy with the Bruins in 2017 and Cale Makar with the Avalanche last spring.
The Islanders and Sorokin aren’t the only ones in this boat. The Wild have KHL sniper Kirill Kaprizov waiting to sign, too. But if the players can’t play right away, thus burning their ELCs and quickening their chance at bigger RFA deals during the next offseason, and the NHL doesn’t have a normal offseason and starts closer to December or January, players like them may prefer to return to Russia for all of next season. The KHL has apparently already decided to start its 2020-21 season at its usual September timeslot.
Apparently there was a rumor that Sorokin had already returned to Russia? Seems to have been a false alarm.
A report from Russia on Wednesday indicated that Kaprizov and Sorokin were likely to sign with CSKA for the 2020-21 season, but a source close to Sorokin denied that’s the case. If the league continues to take a strong stance on this particular rule, however, Sorokin may decide he doesn’t want to wait around for a 2020-21 season that may not start until January.
Lamoriello had no comment when asked about Sorokin on this conference call. But we know one of Lou’s mantras is “If you have the time, use it.” Right now, there’s a lot even ol’ Lou doesn’t know about the NHL’s future plans. He’ll no doubt want to wait until he knows more and can get Sorokin safely signed before making any big decisions. Like everything else right now, Lou says it’s one day at a time.
“It’s going to be a fluid motion, there are going to be adjustments and details that have to be overcome, all we can do is just be straightforward, keep everyone abreast, try to keep everybody’s minds in the right direction and most important thing is to come forward with the best safety and safe situations that we can be involve with.
Meanwhile, while he can return to his CSKA home anytime, it probably behooves Sorokin to also wait and see what happens. There’s still a chance he can come to New York and battle his buddy, Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, for local bragging rights. Staple says he could also could come here as part of the Islanders’ extended black aces squad, should the qualifying rounds happen.
So, yeah, good news/bad news. Want more good news? Just read the first two sentences of Staple’s Sorokin story, then close your browser window.