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Islanders News: Ilya Sorokin can sign...but should he?

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New York’s top goalie prospect can sign soon, but it could mean 10 months without pro hockey.

Olympics: Ice Hockey-Men Team Group B - RUS-SLO
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For all of the inactivity July 1 had in this oddest of NHL years, it didn’t take many more days for us to be on the cusp of a good old fashioned free agent frenzy.

As has been anticipated for at least a week and reported by several of the usual go-to hockey outlets, the NHL and NHLPA are indeed on the cusp of a deal for completing a 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and a six-year CBA extension. It’s pending league and PA votes, but news yesterday — including releases from both the league and PA announcing an MOU, with documentation — is that we’re basically there.

Along with that comes the expected ruling on unsigned draftees like Sorokin: They will be able to sign (pending ratification) for 2019-20, but they cannot participate in the playoffs nor receive an ELC signing bonus, unlike similar players in previous years.

For the Islanders and Sorokin — whom Arthur Staple has reported all month is waiting, ready to sign — this presents something of a dilemma that has only a little bit to do with money. If Sorokin signs with the Islanders, he can’t play now (though he’d likely not appear in the playoffs even if he could, they have two goalies), and then wouldn’t be able to play games for them until perhaps January, when the 2021-21 season is expected to begin.

The KHL, where Sorokin has starred and backstopped championship teams in CSKA, is aiming for a traditional as-scheduled start to the 2020-21 season. (Granted, in #PandemicLife, all plans are conditional.) But would he want to play all season there...and then continue for the stretch run and playoffs of a 2021 NHL season that could stretch through all of next summer? (Again, #pandemicwilling.) Or would he want to shop for a European club that would allow him to exercise an opt-out to join the NHL come January?

Meanwhile, the Islanders have their own concerns: If Sorokin “burns” his lone ELC year by signing now, his next contract (as an RFA) easily takes him above the league minimum salary. The Islanders are already in a tight cap space (nothing Lou hasn’t dealt with before) with a ceiling that will not rise any time soon.

Details of what’s possible were still being clarified, but Staple got what would seem to be the pivotal quote from Sorokin’s North American agent in yesterday’s post at the Athletic:

“It’s good that they will allow him to burn the year,” said Milstein, who was still waiting to get full confirmation on the wording of the new rule. “But that is not the goal; the goal is to play. He doesn’t want to go an extensive period of time without playing.”

So we’ll see. As you can see with lots of the other details outlined in the new CBA, Sorokin will have a little over days after the agreement is ratified to sign...:

...meanwhile NHL free agents will be free to sign with European teams very soon:

...but if those players have opted out of participating in the rest of the 2019-20 season (playoffs), they won’t be able to return after signing in Europe:

When mulling the what-if’s, it’s important to remember that the current NHL season (playoffs) is still to be completed, but most European 2020-21 seasons are planning to be held on a traditional schedule, while the next NHL season will continue well after those European 2020-21 seasons are finished.

The Islanders don’t have many free agents who scream out as candidates to go to Europe, but Sebastian Aho (RFA) could be one, and any of the other RFAs might consider boosting their career by trying the overseas route. They certainly can’t play now with the AHL season done.

The new CBA has all kinds of stipulations, and all of this is on a backdrop of a salary cap that is status quo for next year (not so good for the Isles). But we’ll get to all that. For now, it looks like training camp for the playoffs/qualifying rounds begins July 13, hub city reporting (Edmonton and Toronto, though not formally announced yet) begins July 26, and then the fun begins, er, resumes.

News and Links

  • The Sorokin status: A developing situation now that they finally know what’s possible. [Athletic | Newsday]
  • In case you weren’t already excited enough, at The Athletic, Scott Wheeler ranks Sorokin as the best goalie prospect drafted in the last 10 years.

I don’t think people properly understand how good Sorokin has been in the KHL. He entered the second-best pro league in the world as a 17-year-old and has a career .930 save percentage in 244 regular-season games (!) since. That’s the equivalent to four 60-game seasons as a virtually unflappable goalie.

  • Some terms of the new CBA, which has an MOU but is still subject to votes and ratification. [NHL]
  • One wrinkle of the Return To Play agreement is that certain players deemed high medical risk would not be cleared to play. [Hockey Wilderness]
  • Here’s a Bridgeport free agent scorecard. [Soundin’ Off]
  • Closing the Coliseum? At least 1,500 jobs on the line. [Patch]
  • The flat salary cap and General Uncertainty makes becoming a UFA in 2020 especially poor timing for these already-rich top draws. [THN]
  • What are the best all-time NHL rivalries? Dan weighed in on the Islanders vs. ... various New York things. [SB Nation]
  • Robin Lehner’s new pads for the Golden Knights are pretty sweet. [NHL]
  • Gritty gets a “Queer Eye” makeover. [NHL]