The Islanders didn’t wait long into the NHL’s free agency period to reveal that they are retaining most of their notable free agents.
On Saturday afternoon, general manager and president Lou Lamoriello announced that his side had agreed to deals with four players: winger Pierre Engvall on a seven-year deal, defenseman Scott Mayfield on a seven-year deal, goalie Semyon Varlamov on a four-year deal, and star netminder Ilya Sorokin to an eight-year extension.
Engvall, Mayfield, and Varlamov were unrestricted free agents while Sorokin’s contract was set to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season. His eight-year deal will begin in 2024-25.
“I thought the players wanted to come back and we just worked out a situation that was fair to both parties,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “We’re really pleased that we were able to accomplish that.”
Per reports, Mayfield’s contract is worth $3.5 million per year — good enough to keep the veteran blueliner on the Island when there was speculation that he would test the open market. He’s spent nine years with the Islanders and is coming off a season in which he recorded career-bests in goals (6), assists (18), and points (24).
“I think he’s an unheralded sort of player in what he does and what he brings and the minutes that he takes up and the physicality that he brings to the game,” Lamoriello said. “He plays in every defensive situation and also is a top penalty-killer. He was an important person. He doesn’t do it with glamor, he just does it in an efficient way.”
Engvall’s seven-year deal is the more surprising contract of the bunch. The 27-year-old left-winger was acquired at the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs where he quickly jelled with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri on the second line. He put up five goals and nine points in 18 games with his new team on his way to a career-best 17 goals.
“In the small sample size that has been seen, he brings speed to the game, he has outstanding range, and he has hockey sense,” Lamoriello said. “He’s going to get better and better. I watched him when he first came over and his game has increased… he has tremendous growth.
“It might look a little long… I think it’s going to pay dividends for this young man.”
Varlamov will continue to back up the star Sorokin as the 35-year-old transitions to more of a part-time role in the NHL — and it could very well be the final contract of his career. There also could have been starting time and money available for him on the open market, but he maintained that he wanted to remain with the Islanders given his friendship with Sorokin.
“There’s a tremendous communication, a tremendous respect, and love for each other, and you can see that by how they appreciate the performance of who’s in goal that night,” Lamoriello said. “Varly has been a tremendous mentor for Ilya and Ilya a tremendous teammate for Varly.”
Lamoriello, though, was most relieved about retaining Sorokin for the long haul and ensuring that one of the top goaltenders in the NHL remains in New York.
Sorokin finished second in the Vezina Trophy voting and was in the top 10 of the Hart Trophy voting.
“It’s extremely comforting [to retain him],” Lamoriello said. “It’s obvious you don’t want a player of his stature to go into the last year of his contract. I think it’s a lot of pressure on the player and there would be a lot of media pressure… There’s a lot of intangible situations that this takes away — the mental aspect of it. So we’re extremely pleased. We obviously know what we’re getting in Ilya.”