Ilya Sorokin, the Islanders’ presumed goalie of the future, may finally be coming to North America to join the organization.
Igor Eronko, who covers the KHL for Sport-Express, reported via Twitter on Sunday that Sorokin has opted not to re-sign with CSKA Moscow and will instead sign a deal with the Islanders after his current contract expires on April 30.
The Islanders selected Sorokin, who turns 25 on Aug. 4, in the third round in the 2014 draft. He has spent six seasons with CSKA Moscow, leading that squad to the Gagarin Cup in 2019 while being named the league’s playoff MVP.
The Islanders had no immediate reaction to the report on Sorokin’s future. But president and general manager Lou Lamoriello indicated in a question-and-answer session with fans posted on the team’s website on March 21 that the Islanders had “every indication that he will be here for next season.”
Lamoriello declined to elaborate on a timetable for negotiating with Sorokin while speaking to Newsday on April 2, noting, “We’ll handle that at the appropriate time.”
Sorokin is friends with fellow Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin, who went 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage as a Rangers rookie, supplanting Henrik Lundqvist as the No. 1 goalie.
The six-foot-two, 176-pound Sorokin has played in 245 KHL regular-season games, going 135-64-14, with one shootout loss and three ties per the league’s website. He compiled a 1.69 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
Current Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov said of his fellow Russian, “He’s the best goalie playing in the KHL,” upon signing a four-year, $20-million (U.S.) deal on July 1.
It was expected that Varlamov’s familiarity with his countrymate might help entice Sorokin to join the Islanders.
The Islanders are likely to be seeking a second goalie to pair with Varlamov next season with Thomas Greiss an impending unrestricted free agent as he concludes a three-year, $10-million deal.
Of course, the Islanders could also look to re-sign Greiss or another veteran NHL goalie on a one-year deal and start Sorokin’s career in the organization with Bridgeport in the AHL in order to allow him to adjust to the smaller North American rinks.
That was the strategy the Rangers took with Shesterkin last season after he joined the organization after five KHL seasons with St. Petersburg SKA. Shesterkin forced his way into the Rangers’ lineup in January after stellar AHL play with Hartford.
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Not all ice surfaces in the KHL are uniform so Sorokin has played games on smaller rinks.
“You don’t notice it when you’re in the zone,” Sorokin told KHL reporter Gillian Kemmerer in January. “But when you fall out from the game rhythm, every change affects you because one day you play at a Canadian-sized rink — it’s small and compact — and the next day, you move to a big city with a big rink and that means a different game strategy. So you get mixed up a bit.”