The clock to get Ilya Sorokin — the New York Islanders star goaltending prospect — over from Russia to North America will start ticking shortly.
After the NHL and players’ association ratified its return-to-play policies and Collective Bargaining Agreement on Friday, teams looking to ink unsigned draft picks to entry-level contracts have a 53-hour window beginning on Monday at noon ET.
As decided by the league after protest from the union, however, Sorokin will not be permitted to play when the Islanders begin their Stanley Cup playoff-qualifying series against the Florida Panthers on Aug. 1.
While he won’t be in the crease this summer during meaningful games, getting Sorokin with the Islanders organization is a massive move — one that has been anticipated for years now.
Drafted in the third round in 2014, Sorokin spent the past six years in Russia, mainly playing for CSKA Moscow of the KHL where he’s been one of the country’s very best netminders while becoming the Islanders’ elusive white whale.
With his contract up with CSKA, Sorokin would have had no issue coming to the NHL under normal circumstances. However, the pandemic prompted the league to enforce a rule barring any unsigned draft picks who joined their teams this summer to play when action resumed from the COVID-19 hiatus.
Some may believe that could deter Sorokin from signing with the Islanders during this 53-hour window where he’d sign a one-year deal with CSKA that contains an NHL opt-out clause. But signing with the Islanders in the coming days would allow the two parties to agree to a one-year deal and have that entry-level contract burned before signing a larger contract during the offseason.
His camp has yet to disclose what the goalie prefers. Last week, the 24-year-old’s agent, Daniel Milstein, told amNewYork Metro that he and Sorokin, “will be discussing options in the coming days.”
Not exactly a slam-dunk for the team, which isn’t exuding much confidence, either.
“We only have to wait about four, five days to get the answer,” Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello told reports on a Zoom call Saturday. “We’ll certainly speak with representation, see where it takes us. At this point, nothing is done.”
Should Sorokin join the Islanders, Thomas Greiss’ five-year run with the team is expected to come to an end while Varlamov would become a veteran consigliere of sorts for the young goalie while he adjusts to life in the United States and NHL.