NHL free agency 2023: Islanders sign 4 major long-term deals, headlined by Ilya Sorokin extension

The New York Islanders demonstrated a profound belief in some of the best players in the building on Saturday.

On the first day of free agency, most teams are looking for help outside their organizations, but the New York Islanders re-affirmed their faith in players who were already in the building.

New York signed a quartet of major extensions on Saturday, each of which carried a term of four years or more. The headliner was goaltender Ilya Sorokin who earned an eight-year, $66 million deal coming off a season where he came second in Vezina Trophy voting.

The deal will take effect in 2024-25, and pay Sorokin $8.25 million through 2031-32. Only Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Andrei Vasilevskiy will carry higher AAVs than Sorokin when his extension begins.

Ilya Sorokin has been one of the NHL's best goaltenders over the past two years. Derik Hamilton/AP
Ilya Sorokin has been one of the NHL's best goaltenders over the past two years. Derik Hamilton/AP

Sorokin's deal isn't the only contract New York handed to a goaltender as they retained Semyon Varlamov on a four-year deal.

Varlamov lost his job to Sorokin in recent years, but he's still performed at a high level when he's been between the pipes. The Russian has posted a .917 save percentage since joining the Islanders in 2019-20, and produced solid numbers as Sorokin's backup in 2022-23.

While Varlamov's competence is beyond reproach, signing a 35-year-old to a deal with that much term is unusual. The Russian gives New York a great insurance policy in the crease, but his effectiveness is likely to wane in the latter years of the deal. The AAV on his deal has not been announced yet.

Perhaps the most controversial contract of the bunch is Pierre Engvall's extension. Engvall is just 27 so a seven-year deal isn't doomed to end in disaster, but the term is extreme for someone who is fundamentally a role player — even with a relatively modest $3 million AAV.

Engvall has a compelling combination of speed and size, but he's never topped 15 goals or 35 points in a season.

He did seem to improve after joining the Islanders in a midseason trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs as New York offered him more ice time (15:16) than he ever averaged in Toronto. Even so, between the playoffs and the regular season he managed 11 points with New York in 24 games.

The last player the Islanders locked up was right-shot defenceman Scott Mayfield. The blueliner has elite size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and he skated 21:02 per night with New York last year, playing a shutdown role with a 68.5% defensive-zone start rate.

Mayfield has never topped 24 points in his nine-year NHL career, but he's a valuable defensive presence for the Islanders who would've had a robust market league-wide. The seven-year term is significant for a 30-year-old, but it appears to have kept his AAV down.

Paying $3.5 million for a top-four defenceman is good value, and his closest free-agent comparable — Ryan Graves — got $4.5 million from the Pittsburgh Penguins.