When the New York Islanders signed Linus Soderstrom earlier this month to his entry-level contract, they were avoiding the months of uncertainty they will now face with fellow goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin. Both selected in the 2014 draft, Soderstrom and Sorokin have found incredible success in the SHL and KHL respectively, putting up ridiculous save percentages at extremely young ages.
Sorokin just finished his second World Championships with Team Russia, taking home another bronze medal while remaining perfect during his short stints in the tournament. Just 21, he has yet to take the mantle of starter though it looks like that may lie in his future. In the KHL this year he followed up a Goaltender of the Year award in 2015-16 with another All-Star appearance, and another solid .929 save percentage. He’s clearly one of the best young Russian goaltenders in a long time, and has an NHL future waiting for him if he wants it.
That’s where it gets tricky for the Islanders though, as Sorokin again told reporters at the end of the tournament that he was focused on his final contract year in the KHL, and hasn’t even considered a move to North America yet. On May 5th, it was announced that he had re-negotiated his deal to pay him more for this season after putting up such incredible numbers. His current deal will expire at the end of April 2018, giving the Islanders just a few weeks to get him under contract.
Since Sorokin was drafted in 2014, New York would lose his exclusive negotiating rights after June 1st of 2018, four years from when he was selected. While his intent isn’t clear, things can often change for prospects as they get closer and closer to the prospect of free agency. Should he ever make it to the open market every team in the league would be knocking on his door, a likely incentive to just wait a few more weeks. There is also the idea that the KHL would likely make him one of the highest-paid goaltenders in the league, trying to keep their talent at home for as long as possible. Though the Islanders sacrificed just a third-round pick on him in 2014, seeing his progression would make it extremely painful to lose him to free agency.
So now, though they don’t have to worry about Soderstrom the Islanders will have to keep an eye on Sorokin and try to persuade him to sign a deal next season. With uncertainty in the crease beyond 2020—if you can call an aging Thomas Greiss certain in the first place—the team would love to be able to pencil Sorokin in as a long-term option. If he’s serious about waiting until after his contract expires to even consider a move, they’ll have to work quickly to convince him.