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Revisiting the July 1, 2023 Extensions: Part Two

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On July 1 last year, the Islanders signed four long-term contract extensions for Pierre Engvall, Scott Mayfield, Ilya Sorokin, and Semyon Varlamov. Since then, the cap has risen and is expected to continue rising, while the contracts signed by the Islanders last year are aging into the cap.

One year later, it’s time to revisit the deals. Yesterday was Engvall and Varlamov’s turn. Today is Scott Mayfield and Ilya Sorokin’s turn.

Contract #1 Ilya Sorokin

Sorokin signed a monster eight-year, $76 million dollar contract. He signed one year ahead of his contract expiry. He was coming off of a Vezina-worthy season but lost the trophy to Linus Ullmark and his formidable work backstopping to record-breaking but ultimately choking 2022-23 Boston Bruins.

In his two previous seasons, Sorokin started 50 or more games and registered a .925 in 21-22 and a .924 in 22-23. That also includes 13 shutouts during those two seasons.

This year, Sorokin dealt with the worst analytical defense and expected goals against while Lane Lambert was still in charge. He was forced into making ridiculous saves while facing 40+ shots a game.

Unsurprisingly, he ran out of gas. He collapsed down the stretch, and the Islanders turned to Varlamov to steady the boat into the playoffs.

That isn’t the full story with Sorokin. He deeply struggled when facing shots from the blue line with a ton of bodies in front. That’s not overly shocking, of course, but Sorokin struggled more than the average goalie with it. By the end of the year, it looked like he lost his confidence.

Speaking to Joe Pantorno after his Game 3 debacle, Sorokin simply said, “I wanted to smoke a cigarette.”

That’s a goalie who lost his confidence. Assuming he builds it back up over the summer, Sorokin figures to be back into his Vezina form. His rival counterpart Igor Shesterkin went through a tough stretch during the end of 22-23 and the early portion of 23-24, but found his way through and nearly carried his team to the Stanley Cup.

Other goalie extensions saw Connor Hellebucyk, two years and five months older than Sorokin, receive a matching deal. Juuse Saros took a haircut to stay in Nashville, but his peaks are lower than Sorokin’s peaks. Shesterkin is looking to shatter records with his contract extension.

Contract Grade: B, but if Sorokin rounds back into form, it’s an A.

Contract #2 Scott Mayfield

Scott Mayfield stole all the headlines last July 1. It seemed there was a likelihood he may walk out the door and into free agency. Instead, Team President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello handed Scott Mayfield a seven-year, $24.5 million contract. That’s worth $3.5 a year on the cap, all while he got himself a full no-trade clause for the first five years of the deal before it converts to a 16-team NTC.

Mayfield, 31, will turn 32 in October this year. It’s never a great start to a long-term deal for a physical defenseman when he breaks his ankle in the first game and plays injured throughout the year while missing other assortments of games before undergoing season-ending surgery in March.

Mayfield played 41 games and, for most of them, looked like a player with a broken ankle. He couldn’t trust his leg and had less strength to do what he was good at, so his game and penalty kill suffered.

All of that sounds negative. It certainly doesn’t project well over seven years, but the cap is skyrocketing, and who knows what it will look like in 2030 when the deal expires.

But, dear reader, I urge you to look at the deals handed out to right-shot defensive defensemen this year. Matt Roy, a big defenseman, scored five goals and 25 points while doing his job well on the defensive end. Roy, who is 29, signed a seven-year, $5.75 per-year deal with the Capitals.

Last year, Mayfield scored six goals and 24 points while handling similar top-four minutes. Roy definitely has better analytics and is one year younger, but giving him the contract the Islanders gave Adam Pelech is a risk. Mayfield had similar production while being steady defensively.

Nikita Zadorov scored some playoff goals for the Canucks, and played third-pairing minutes, all while having worse analytics across the board when compared to Scott Mayfield. Zadorov is also 29, so just one year younger than Mayfield. So, surely Zadorov was paid a similar amount in the open market?

Nope. Those playoff goals and his imposing physical presence compelled the Bruins to sign him to a highly risky six-year, $30 million deal. That’s $5 per year, an entire $1.5 more than Mayfield. It’s hard to justify such a contract on anything other than pure vibes because the vibes say that big, mean, physical defenseman fits the Bruins perfectly, even if the contract is wildly bloated.

Then you can discuss Chris Tanev, the defensive stalwart and excellent shutdown defensive, getting himself a six-year, $27 million deal worth $4.5 million annually. He’s 34 and won’t see the end of that contract, especially with his injury history.

Joel Edmundson, a defenseman worse than Mayfield in just about every single way, netted himself a four-year, $3.85 million contract with those Kings. He’s 31, a year older than Mayfield was at the time of his signing.

Clearly, the going rate for big and physical right-shot defensemen is high and only rising. It was critiqued at the time and is likely too long, but it’s a really hard argument to suggest Mayfield wasn’t signed at a decent value compared to his peers.

Contract Grade: B+

Closing Thoughts:

I am going to get a lot of flak for that Mayfield evaluation. It’s very easy to look at things in a vacuum, but he was one of the best right-shot defensemen on the market. Dmitry Orlov was the only player clearly better, while Radko Gudas got a bigger contract from Anaheim. Ryan Graves signed what looks to be the worst contract of the 2023 cycle with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mayfield took a haircut now for longer security. The full NTC for five years is debatable. What isn’t debatable is the value. If he stays healthy, which in previous years he hasn’t struggled so badly with, Mayfield is vital to the team and its success.

Sorokin’s contract solely depends on him. He has the talent to be the best goaltender in the NHL, bar none. Compared to guys like Shesterkin or Hellebucyk, the roster in front of him is worse than either of those guys. Winnipeg might have a worse roster now, but that’s debatable.

Mayfield’s contract aged better, even if he was hurt this year. The cost to replace what he brings only skyrocketed this year, especially with the rising cap.

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