KHL journalist Igor Eronko tweeted that goalie Ilya Sorokin, the KHL’s top goalie, has refused to extend his contract with KHL club CSKA Moscow. His current deal expires on April 30. Sorokin was drafted by the Islanders in 2014 (3rd round) and is expected to sign with the club.
Sorokin posted a filthy 1.50 goals against average and .935 save percentage this year. In his WORST KHL season the last 5 years, he allowed 1.61 goals per game, including an absurd 1.16 in the 2018-19 season.
Compare Sorokin’s last 3 KHL seasons to Shesterkin’s and be impressed:
Sorokin: GP SO GAA W L T SV% 2017-18 37 8 1.59 25 8 4 .931 2018-19 40 11 1.16 28 6 4 .940 2019-20 40 9 1.50 26 10 3 .935 Shesterkin: GP SO GAA W L T SV% 2016-17 39 8 1.64 27 4 6 .937 2017-18 28 7 1.69 20 4 4 .933 2018-19 28 10 1.11 24 4 0 .953
Shesterkin’s talent translated instantly in North America, where made the AHL his bitch and subsequently ripped a 10-2 run with the Rangers before a car accident slowed his incredible NHL start. If you remember, the Rangers were crap this year then suddenly launched into the playoff conversation with the help of Sherterkin’s run of good play. With the Islanders’ stout team defense, Sorokin has a chance to make a smooth transition to the NHL and become the other half of a Russian goaltending rivalry in New York that could be really special. Both goalies are only 24.
However, Sorokin’s bargaining power may have taken a hit thanks to coronavirus. Three KHL teams have folded since coronavirus debuted, which had the Whitdog (Ryan Whitney) questioning the future stability and existence of the league.
Sorokin better hope the KHL stays afloat until April 30 so he can use the possibility of resigning with a KHL team as a bargaining chip, especially since Lamoriello has Mat Barzal’s contract to think of next off season. Barzal’s current contract takes up only 1.1% of the Islanders’ salary cap. That’ll change in a hurry.
If the KHL’s instability is really a factor in Sorokin leaving, it comes at the perfect time for the Islanders, who suddenly have one of the deepest rosters in the Metro. Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, and Casy Cizikas are a formidable crew of centers. The defensive corps led by Nick Leddy has progressed under coach Barry Trotz. Fellow Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov will serve as a great mentor for Sorokin as he transitions to North American living and NHL game speed.
Varlamov and Sorokin are likely to split time and are arguably a better pair than Jennings Trophy winners Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. With the maturing D corps and addition of Pageau at third line center, the Islanders should again be among the league leaders in team defense.
Although they lost Lehner to free agency to the Blackhawks in 2019, Lamoriello quickly picked up Varlamov for $20 million over 4 years. Greiss’s contract ends this offseason. Given Lamoriello and Trotz’s conservative operation, it will be interesting to see whether they resign Greiss or let him walk. If they don’t resign Greiss it will really speak to their confidence in Sorokin.
Another boon of this signing will be the benefit to the marquee New York hockey rivalry: we could be seeing Sorokin vs. Shesterkin for years to come. With Hank in his golden years, this is the perfect time for these two studs to develop a head to head, marketable rivalry in the gigantic New York market. Although Martin Brodeur, Mike Richter, and Lundqvist achieved bona fide stardom in the tri-state area, there has never been a great Islanders/Rangers goaltending rivalry. We could see Islanders/Rangers games get even more electric.
Cover photo: Anton Vasyatin.