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Rangers’ Trade Demands Reflect Their Reverence of Georgiev and Desire to Possibly Even Keep Him

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The Rangers are asking for a lot in return for their ostensibly spare goaltender, and it’s no bluff.

NHL: JAN 16 Rangers at Islanders Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Though I do stand by some elements of my article evaluating potential Georgiev trades, hindsight is proving that I was not even close to ambitious enough. At least, in terms of matching the Rangers’ own appetite. Suffice to say, if Jeremy Bracco or a similar-caliber player was all the Rangers were seeking, this deal would be done already.

In the last few days, both via public and private information, it has become explicitly clear that the Rangers, at least right now, are demanding a stellar return in order to part with the ostensibly surplus goaltender.

Point-per-game AHL winger Jeremy Bracco would not come even close to getting the deal done, it has become apparent. In fact, Toronto media seem to believe that NHL winger Andreas Johnsson or perhaps even borderline top-six winger Kasperi Kapanen would push this deal across the finish line.

Not that Dreger and Mirtle need validation, but Blueshirt Banter has independently verified the essence of those reports. The Rangers have set the bar incredibly high for a trade return. They’re demanding not only a player of NHL quality, but one who can be a serious difference maker.

Other teams’ fans, and honestly, likely some NHL GMs, are looking at Georgiev and thinking that Gorton is out of his mind. An undrafted, 6’1” goaltender with a pretty bland resume. Just 66 good but unspectacular NHL games, 48 AHL games, and a couple of seasons in Finland as a backup. What’s the big deal?

The Rangers are, to a degree, playing the game here. Like any good negotiator, General Manager Jeff Gorton is anchoring the price, hoping to dictate negotiations. As uncomfortable as the three-goalie situation may be, the Rangers have little reason to settle for an okay deal right now. Such a return will be available just as much in mid-June. Or, at least, in five weeks when the trading deadline arrives. In the meantime, there’s little harm in seeing if desperation wins out and a team will give the Rangers that home-run return.

But broadly speaking, the Rangers’ upscale demands are no bluff, Blueshirt Banter has learned. It’s a reflection of how the organization views Georgiev. In particular, Goaltending Coach Benoit Allaire is enthralled. He and the team absolutely love Georgiev’s work ethic and how willing he is to accept coaching and implement what he’s learned into his game. A source claims that few goaltenders match Georgiev in that regard. Given that, the Rangers think Georgiev is just scratching the surface of his abilities.

There’s a divide between how much of the league sees Georgiev versus how the Rangers do. The league only sees his output in games, but the Rangers work with him on a daily basis and have a larger, more intimate, sample with which to work. Furthermore, the Rangers have absolutely earned the right to be confident, if not arrogant, in their assessment of goaltending relative to the rest of the league. It’s been a long time since they’ve lost a bet on a goaltender at the pro level, which is absolutely incredible given that they’ve mostly been shopping in the clearance aisle. How do you get what you perceive to be proper value for a player whom you rate higher than everyone else does? That’s one of the dilemmas the Rangers face.

The bigger conundrum is this: If you truly believe that Georgiev can and/or will be that good, then why trade him? Given the awkward three-goalie situation, it’s almost patronizing to ask such a question.

But let’s take an honest look at the team’s situation and needs. Brush aside prior assumptions, biases, and sentimentality. The Rangers are a rebuilding team. Georgiev will be a 24-year-old restricted free agent who will be a cheap re-sign in the summer. Lundqvist will be halfway to 39 in October with an $8.5M cap hit for one more season. In a blind assessment of the organization and its five-year outlook, is there really a strong hockey, cap management argument for Georgiev being the odd-man-out rather than Lundqvist?

Discussion about this has been waved off on account of Lundqvist having a no-trade clause and the perception that he has zero desire to leave New York. This is fair. Absent a buyout, Lundqvist is completely in control of his own fate until July 1st, 2021. If he doesn’t want to leave, he won’t. And one should ignore any absurd conspiracy which postulates a passive-aggressive plan to bully him into moving on.

Yet even if Georgiev is moved, the Rangers and Lundqvist are absolutely going to have a heart-to-heart discussion over the upcoming summer. He has one year left on his contract. Next season will see him yet again receiving fewer starts than he’d like. The team would then likely make Shesterkin the starter for 2021-22. It’s impossible to imagine Lundqvist willingly signing on to be a backup goaltender and it’s equally unlikely that the team would pay him multiple millions to do so.

Ultimately, if Lundqvist plans on playing in the NHL beyond next season, then it’s most likely going to be for a team other than the Rangers. Perhaps he’d rather retire or finish his career in Sweden. But if he does make peace with the idea itself of playing for a different NHL team, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to see a path where he and the Rangers simply get it over with. It’s difficult to imagine Lundqvist playing a season for a different team, but once the premise is accepted, a second season is hardly a major leap.

This is not foreshadowing or predicting such a divorce so much as merely pointing out that there is at least enough of a possibility, even if unlikely, to justify seeing this situation out and retain Georgiev into the summer.

The Rangers’ high demands for a Georgiev trade are two-fold. They think Georgiev is a very good young goaltender and they want their return to reflect that valuation. And if they’re going to trade him before they absolutely need to, foregoing months in which the big picture will become more clear and may possibly present an alternate path, then it’s going to cost even more.