The New York Islanders locked up their goaltender of the future on Tuesday, signing Ilya Sorokin to a $2 million contract for next season.
The deal includes $1 million in salary and a $1 million bonus. A day earlier, the Islanders signed Sorokin to an entry-level deal for the remainder of this season even though he’s not eligible to play.
Sorokin, 24, is considered one of the top prospects at any position not currently in the NHL. A third-round pick of the Islanders in 2014, he was among the Kontinental Hockey League’s best goalies this past season with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
“We certainly feel highly of him, but all those records go out the window when you come to the National Hockey League,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “There’s adjustments, there’s rink-size adjustments, there’s a lot of things. But he has the skills and the talent to have success.”
Two other teams signed Russian prospects Monday who can’t compete in the resumption of this season. The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Alexander Romanov for three years, and the Minnesota Wild signed forward Kirill Kaprizov for two years.
All three players are burning a year by signing for this season, a way of getting to more lucrative contracts sooner in the future. Lamoriello said the plan is for Sorokin to join the team on Long Island for training camp and in Toronto for games as a way to get accustomed to North America.
The Islanders are one of several teams going into the NHL’s expanded 24-team playoffs with a goaltending competition. Coach Barry Trotz said he’ll let it play out between Russian Semyon Varlamov and German Thomas Greiss to determine who might start Game 1 of the qualifying round against the Florida Panthers on Aug. 1.
“I’ve seen some of the highlight stuff,” Trotz said of Sorokin. “I’m really excited for us as an organization. That’s exciting. But we’re worried about the playoffs right now.”
While Varlamov is under contract for three more seasons — perhaps in later years to mentor Sorokin — Greiss is a pending free agent. Sorkin backed up for the gold medal-winning Olympic Athletes from Russia at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and showed his NHL potential over several KHL seasons and world championships.
“Me and Ilya have a great relationship,” Varlamov said. “It’s great for him to sign a deal and it’s great for organization in the long term.”
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