The New York Islanders were already strong in net, rotating for most of this season’s 68 games between Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov. There was a slim hope they could have been even stronger had the NHL allowed for prized goaltending prospect, Ilya Sorokin, to sign his entry-level contract for the COVID-19 pandemic restart. That is now not going to happen.
On Monday evening, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding for a four-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in addition to some necessary changes because of the pandemic. Part of the discussions revolved around allowing players to sign and play in the restart, much like how players in the past have been allowed to jump right out of college and into an NHL lineup around March and April. The league did not approve that this year.
There are solutions for the Islanders. Sorokin will be allowed to sign his one-year, entry-level contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, enabling him to be a restricted free agent after this season ends. Of course, that being the case whenever that time period arrives. As part of the return-to-play protocol, Sorokin cannot participate in any formal team skates or practices.
When the NHL moves to Phase 4, it is likely teams will have several players stay home, allowing for them to hold informal skates at the practice rinks. That would allow for Sorokin to participate and keep seeing shots from both players and prospects.
Sorokin can also sign for the 2019-20 season and sign for the 2020-21 season (and beyond). While the NHL waits for the 2020-21 season to start, the Islanders would be allowed to loan Sorokin to a European league, permitting Sorokin to get in some game action. Understandably, once next season begins, Sorokin will likely be in game shape for a tightly scheduled 82-game regular season. No worries on his game-load though, as Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, in his first two seasons behind the bench, has closely placed his goaltenders into a rotation.