Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev was a topic of conversation for many over the Summer, with a handful of teams reportedly having interest in the Bulgarian born netminder. As it turned out, the Rangers either chose to keep him, or could not find a deal that made sense.
In fact, the Rangers opened their season with Georgiev in net in the 5-2 loss to Washington Capitals, turning in a performance that echoed the struggles he’s had over the last couple of years, and setting up a start to the season that drove trust in his play to new lows.
His ability to make the big save, to stop breakaways, and be a dependable backup came into question, extending as far into the season as November 21st, when he was pulled 40 minutes in, after allowing 4 goals on 18 shots to the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers would go on to win that game 5-4, courtesy of Igor Shesterkin and Ryan Lindgren‘s last second goal.
Then on December 3rd, with the Rangers leading the Sharks 1-0 in the third period, Igor Shesterkin made a sprawling save and remained on the ice. Georgiev came in to play the final 14:52, stopping all 9 shots he faced and sharing the shutout and win with his goaltending partner.
That cameo in relief, has so far sparked a renaissance for the 25 year old, where he’s stopped 205 of the 218 shots he’s faced, putting up a .940 Save% and 1.79 GAA, while posting a 4-2-1 record. That record has prompted renewed conversations around whether it might be the time to trade him.
It’s been known for a while, that Georgiev would like to play more, and with the Rangers settling on Shesterkin as their clear #1, he’s not going to get that opportunity to do that here in New York. Meanwhile there are teams out there who need a netminder, particularly the Edmonton Oilers, who are at risk of falling out of playoff contention after a red hot start.
With that said, there’s a couple of other factors worth considering.
The Rangers are under no salary cap pressure this season, with over $8M of unused space at the beginning of the season, that increases in value each day as a result of pro-rating any added salary for the remainder of the season. Georgiev’s $2.4M therefore, is not impactful to the team’s plans this year, whatever they might be.
There’s also Shesterkin’s injury history to consider. The 26 year old Russian has now missed games in each of his three pro seasons, as a result of injury, and more specifically his groin. While this latest injury proved to be relatively minor, the extent to which the Rangers rely on their netminder, puts added focus on that position, and in a year where they look destined to return to the playoffs, they would look somewhat more vulnerable with Keith Kinkaid in net than Shesterkin or Georgiev.
On the other hand, despite the recent run of form, Georgiev has also looked pretty ordinary for most of the past three seasons. His play since Shesterkin rose up the ranks has been uneven, with a penchant for giving up late tying goals, and struggles on the breakaways. Reason would suggest, that he’s still likely to see a drop in his play for the remainder of the season, particularly if he gets less playing time – an area he’s already noted is hard for him to cope with.
Would waiting until the end of the season reduce his trade value, it’s certainly a possibility.
Then again, goaltenders don’t always earn the same sort of return that you’d see with other positions. Sure, Darcy Kuemper earned a relative haul for the Arizona Coyotes after the Avalanche got caught short by the departure of Philip Grubauer. A first round pick, a conditional third, and middling defensive prospective Connor Timmins, was more than you typically see for a netminder. Still, the Avalanche were without a starter, and Kuemper had 242 games of NHL experience, with a .916 Save% and a sub 2.50 GAA.
While Georgiev has a better than career average of .911 (league average this year is .905), his GAA is still a relatively high 2.92.
Perhaps more likely is a 2nd round pick, as Vitek Vanacek earned for the Seattle Kraken from the Washington Capitals, who made a move to reacquire the netminder after Seattle selected him in the Expansion Draft. Perhaps a 3rd round pick, as Alex Nedeljkovic earned from the Hurricanes, along with soon to be free agent Jonathan Bernier.
Now, it’s fair to say that the return might be a bit higher at the deadline, especially if other teams lose their starters to form drops or injury. Perhaps a 1st round pick might be on offer, and that would certainly be worth looking at. So the question would then be, are the Rangers better off this season with that pick and no Georgiev for the final month and the playoffs, or would it make more sense to get a lower return in the offseason and avoid the risk altogether.