Ilya Sorokin

What is the Islanders’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the New York Islanders.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Islanders will need to lock up a couple of critical restricted free agents this upcoming offseason but have a lot of components signed to long-term extensions.

The acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the NHL Trade Deadline solidified their depth down the middle for years to come. Mathew Barzal has the potential to blossom into an elite centerman while Brock Nelson and Pageau can flip flop between the second and third line. Heart and soul player Casey Cizikas will continue to anchor the fourth line.

New York also has several of its top-nine wingers in place, including Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle and captain Anders Lee.

The newest addition to the core will be goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who is expected to come to the NHL at the start of next season. The Islanders drafted Sorokin in the third round of the 2014 draft and the Russian netminder has spent the past six seasons in the KHL. He has long been considered one of the best goalies not playing in the NHL. Throughout his career with CSKA, he never finished with a save percentage below .929 and is expected to produce at a similar level in North America.

Islanders goalie coach Mitch Korn has helped develop some of the League’s best goaltenders and Sorokin could be next in line.

Long-Term Needs

While the Islanders have a lot of their core signed to long-term contracts, the organization still needs a high-scoring winger to manufacture offense.

The Carolina Hurricanes swept the Islanders in a second-round series during last year’s postseason as they won four straight and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. New York only managed to score five goals in those four games and were unable to solve its offensive deficiencies.

The Islanders play a fundamentally sound defensive system but need someone who can create offense on their own to change the momentum within a game. Barzal has a chance to be that type of game-breaker in today’s NHL but you need more than one player with that skillset.

In addition to their lack of offensive punch, the Islanders lost their defensive structure when Adam Pelech was lost for the season in early January. General manager Lou Lamoriello thought he solved the problem with the addition of Andy Greene from the New Jersey Devils but the Islanders went 2-5-4 in the 11 games he played and finished in a seven-game skid.

Coach Barry Trotz and his staff need to examine why the absence of one player impacted their system as much as it did.

Long-Term Strengths

The impact a coach has on any given team has long been disputed, but the effect Trotz has had on the Islanders is undeniable.

Ever since Trotz inked a five-year contract with the orange and blue, he brought a credibility to the team on the ice. The Islanders became one of the most defensively sound teams in the league and instantly became a playoff contender. With Trotz behind the bench, the Islanders will reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a consistent basis.

Besides strong leadership behind the bench, the Islanders have developed a strong culture inside the locker room. Players play for one another and there is a system of accountability that was lacking before Trotz arrived.

Overall, the Islanders should be in the playoff discussion for years to come with a disciplined structure, strong goaltending and a true difference-maker behind the bench. However, in order to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and not just a team that qualifies for the postseason consistently, they need to add a dynamic forward.

MORE ON THE ISLANDERS:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Report: Goalie Ilya Sorokin seems set to sign with Islanders

Islanders Sorokin
Getty

Some promising and potentially exciting news for New York Islanders fans on Sunday as prized goalie Ilya Sorokin finally seems set to sign with the team later this month.

According to a report from Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko on Sunday, the 24-year-old Sorokin has refused to sign a contract extension with KHL team, CSKA Moscow, and will instead sign with the Islanders when his current contract expires on April 30.

Sorokin’s arrival is something the Islanders and their fans have been anticipating for quite some time.

Originally a third-round pick (No. 78 overall) in the 2014 draft, Sorokin has spent the past six years as the KHL’s most dominant goalie and has been one of the best goalies in the world outside of the NHL. It has just been a matter of getting him to North America to see what he can do in the world’s best hockey league. In his six years with CSKA he never finished with a save percentage below .929 and has been nearly unbeatable.

Goaltending has been the driving force behind the Islanders’ success the past year-and-a-half, and Sorokin could potentially add to that strength.

They do still have Semyon Varlamov signed for another three years beyond this season at a salary cap hit of $5 million per season.

Thomas Greiss is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Sorokin is good friends with New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, another of the league’s up-and-coming players. Both of them playing in the same city could add yet another interesting dynamic to one of the league’s fiercest rivalries.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lamoriello says Islanders would match Barzal offer sheet

Lamoriello Islanders would match Mathew Barzal offer sheet
Getty Images

If an opportunistic NHL team sends Mathew Barzal an offer sheet, Lou Lamoriello claims that the Islanders would match it.

Lamoriello briefly but authoritatively stated as much in an … often brief and authoritative Q&A with fans on the Islanders website. Here’s his exact answer:

It is our intention to not allow it to get to that point, but should that happen, the answer is yes.

Lamoriello also mentioned that:

  • The Islanders expect intriguing goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to play in North America next season, and specifically with the Islanders.
  • The team believes Johnny Boychuk and Casey Cizikas would be ready if play resumes.
  • Meanwhile, Lamoriello said Adam Pelech is expected to be ready by (2020-21) training camp.

But, yeah, that Barzal bit is the most interesting. Let’s ruminate on the situation for a moment.

A Barzal bidder could be a threat if Islanders, others face cap crunches

As of this writing, Cap Friendly estimates the Islanders’ would-be cap space for 2020-21 at about $12.62 million. Of course, that estimate would be based on an $81.5M ceiling. Usually, we assume there will be at least a modest increase, and the league pointed to that happening … until the coronavirus pandemic put the season on “pause.”

Now that the league is on pause, there are all sorts of questions. While the biggest ones are about whether the league could hand out the Stanley Cup (and how), financial worries also linger. It sure sounds like it will be difficult to even maintain an $81.5M cap, let alone raise it.

It’s tough to picture a team being cutthroat during such a time, especially in an NHL where credible offer sheets are about as rare as Lamoriello approving of a high jersey number and mustache combination.

But things can change quickly, and if life and sports go back to something approaching normalcy, one could imagine a perfect opportunity for someone to try to poach Barzal with an offer sheet. Generally speaking, such offer sheets are often designed to hurt the team to match thanks to certain structural quirks. (The Flyers front-loaded their offer to try to get Shea Weber, for instance.)

A Barzal offer sheet could hurt maneuverability even if Islanders match

For better or worse, the Islanders have handed out a lot of term to forwards lately.

Anders Lee (29, $7M cap hit through 2025-26), Brock Nelson (28, $6M, 2024-25), Jordan Eberle (29, $5.5M, 2023-24) and Josh Bailey (30, $5M, 2023-24) already represented a pretty substantial group with its fair share of risks. Then Lamoriello added Jean-Gabriel Pageau (27, extended at $5M AAV through 2025-26) to the mix.

The Islanders would do what they need to do to retain Barzal, as Lamoriello said. Even so, a strategic offer sheet could create an especially tight fit.

Such thoughts make you wonder if the Islanders might want to get something done ASAP with Barzal, but back in January, he indicated talks will wait.

“We want to make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, take a run at the Stanley Cup, and after that we’ll figure [the contract] out,” Barzal said during All-Star weekend, via NHL.com.

A few weeks ago, Elliotte Friedman surmised that an offer sheet could indeed come for Barzal, and it’s easy to see why.

Barzal is vital to Islanders, compares well to Marner

If you’re a team in need of an impact player, wouldn’t Barzal be worth at least as much as Mitch Marner‘s $10.893M AAV, if not more? After all, Barzal brings all of that speed and production at center.

Compare Barzal and Marner based on multiple season RAPM charts at Evolving Hockey, for example:

With 60 points in 68 games, Barzal leads all Islanders scorers, which puts him on track to top team point production for three straight seasons. While he hasn’t matched that explosive rookie year of 85 points in 2017-18, Barzal’s been able to avoid Barry Trotz’s doghouse.

His value to the Islanders is abundantly clear, and won’t be lost on potential suitors. It would be surprising if anyone snatched Barzal away, but that offer sheet threat could really drive up the price for the Islanders.

Perhaps a team might snare a player away who’s a few rungs lower down the ladder with an offer sheet considering the economic turbulence, though?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ilya Sorokin submits save of the year candidate at Channel One Cup

HC CSKA / Twitter
1 Comment

With a little more than two weeks left in 2018, goaltender Ilya Sorokin wanted to make sure he got his name on the list of potential saves of the year during Saturday’s Channel One Cup game against the Czech Republic.

During a 7-2 victory, the Russian netminder, a third-round pick by the New York Islanders in 2014, made an incredible stick save to keep the Czechs at bay. One that you will really appreciate once you see it through the various camera angles.

There’s a chance we see Sorokin later this season in the NHL. As Arthur Staple of The Athletic reported earlier this month, the 23-year-old Sorokin could join the Islanders once his season with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow ends. Through 24 games he’s posted a 1.18 goals against average and a .943 save percentage, continuing a trend of strong numbers since the 2015-16 season.

As the Islanders figure out if their answer in goal for the future is Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss, or maybe even Sergei Bobrovsky, Sorokin’s presence gives them a possible in-house option to ponder.

Stick-tap Jeff Veillette

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Forsling, Nylander lead Sweden past Russia

1 Comment

Gustav Forsling scored twice and William Nylander setup a pair of goals, including the game winner, as Sweden edged Russia 3-2 Monday night at the world junior championship.

Detroit Red Wings’ 2014 seventh round pick Axel Holmstrom netted the eventual game winner at 10:53 of the third period, one timing an Oskar Lindblom feed for his first of the tournament.

Monday’s matchup between the Russians and Swedes featured two 2014 New York Islanders draft picks in goal.

Fourth-round selection Linus Soderstrom made 27 saves for the win while third-round pick Ilya Sorokin stopped 23 shots in the loss.

Vyacheslav Leschenko scored both goals for Russia.

The win improves Sweden to 3-0-0 at the tournament and keeps them atop Group B while the loss dropped Russia to 1-1-1.

Despite the early tournament success, Nylander, the Toronto Maple Leafs 2014 first round pick, believes Sweden has room to improve.

“I think we’ve got a little ways to go,” said Nylander, who now has two goals and two assists in three games. “We’re still not at our top level yet. We’ll get there as the playoff round starts.

“I think as a team we played a lot better in the first. We want to try to get our game to be as consistent as we played in the first. I think we gave them some more chances there in the second and then picked it up in the middle of the third. We just need that consistency and we’ll be good.”

Forsling, the Vancouver Canucks’ fifth-round selection at the 2014 NHL Draft, opened the scoring with his first of the tournament at 10:38 of the first.

With Calgary Flames prospect Rushan Rafikov serving a hooking penalty, Forsling put his point shot past a screened Sorokin.

After Leschenko scored twice to give Russia a 2-1 lead, Forsling added his second of the night and the tournament with a point shot, which found its’ way past Sorokin.

“It was nice. There was many people in front of the goal so I just get a shot through the guys and to see it go in — it was nice,” said Forsling. “Nylander sets me up really good. We’ve got some people in at the goal so I’ve got to give thanks to them.”

Nylander admitted post game that his familiarity with linemates Holmstrom and Lindblom, a Flyers’ prospect, from the Under-18 tournament has helped at this year’s Under-20 tournament.

The trio combined for five points in the win.

“Being together on such a short notice, you’re able to pick up the chemistry together cause we played together there at the U 18 so it’s getting better and better every day,” said Nylander.

Added Holmstrom: “William is such a good player. Probably one of the best players in this tournament. We’re good together.”

Sweden concludes the preliminary round against Switzerland on Wednesday while Russia plays the Czech Republic.