In case you haven’t heard, the Rangers have quite a few decisions to make this offseason. The entire left half of the defense needs to be overhauled, they need to make a decision on the 2nd line center, and there’s the question of what to do with Tony DeAngelo, all of which needs to be addressed in a flat salary cap world. On top of all of that, the Rangers need to address the three-headed goalie monster that churned up this past season with the arrival of Igor Shesterkin back in January to the tandem of Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. While the goalie situation was going to come up eventually, Shesterkin’s arrival and his subsequent establishment as a bona fide NHL talent, the question of what to do between the pipes going forward was accelerated.
Heading into this off-season, the Rangers have three solid NHL goalies in Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev, and Igor Shesterkin. Now, Lundqvist is nearing the end of an unparalleled career and the questions over whether he comes back next season is still to be determined. At 38 years old, the Swedish netminder has one more year on his contract before he hits the free agent market but it is pretty clear that his time as the Rangers’ starter is coming to a close. While Henrik enters the sunset of his career, it appears that the dawn is coming for the Igor Shesterkin era on Broadway. After being drafted in the 4th round and tearing up the KHL, the 24 year old started his North American career with the Hartford Wolf Pack putting up a .934 save percentage in 25 games before getting called up to the big club in January and securing the starting role for the foreseeable future.
This brings up the question of what to do with Alexandar Georgiev. The 24 year old goalie was an undrafted free agent signed by the Rangers in 2017 and has gone on to put up rather respectable numbers during his stay in New York, putting up a .913 save percentage over 77 career games on Broadway. Now, his ELC is set to expire, making Georgiev a Restricted Free Agent for the first time and putting the Rangers in an awkward position as there is only so much ice time to go around and splitting the time three ways means someone is going to be unhappy and miss out on vital playing time. The Rangers have two young goaltenders both just getting into their careers and any set back in development could be devastating and because of how good Shesterkin was last season, it is very hard to see a world where Georgiev gets the lion’s share of the starts going forward. This leads to the logical conclusion that Georgiev is worth more to the Rangers as a trade chip than on the roster. But what, exactly, is the value of a relatively unproven RFA goalie in this coming offseason?
To answer that question we need to take a look at what the goalie market will most likely look like this offseason. There is a big crop of goalies hitting the unrestricted free agent market, highlighted by Washington’s Braden Holtby and Vegas’s Robin Lehner. There is also a growing trade market for goalies as, reportedly, both Matt Murray and Tristian Jarry are on the trade block from Pittsburgh Penguins as Jim Rutherford is set to make changes for the sake of making changes. Joining both Penguins netminders on the trade market is Frederick Andersen from the always chaotic Toronto Maple Leafs. There are also a whole bunch of teams that need an upgrade in net setting up what should, or could, be a very active goalie market this offseason.
So, you’ve got a bunch of teams that need upgrades in goal and an offseason with goalies to be had. Where does Georgiev play into this? Well, the big pivoting point might be the flat salary cap. Because the cap isn’t going up this offseason, teams are going to have to be more willing to maneuver contracts and players around to try and improve areas of weakness, which means that teams might be more willing to pay more in assets if it means they can save a bit of cap space on a player. Though some team, probably the Oilers, is going to give Braden Holtby a contract that will probably go down as the worst contract of the Salary Cap era.
Now, when thinking about what an Alexandar Georgiev trade might look like, we can turn our attention to...well...recent Rangers history. In 2015 the Rangers had 26 year old Cam Talbot coming off of his ELC after two seasons of stellar play as Henrik’s backup and the Rangers decided to capitalize at a time when Talbot’s value would never be higher and on June 27th, 2015 the Rangers sent Talbot and a 7th round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2015 2nd round pick, a 2015 3rd round pick, and a 2015 7th round pick. This trade was made five years ago and Talbot had two .930 save percentage seasons under his belt, whereas Georgiev hasn’t cracked .915 for short career, but the Bulgarian–Russian goalie is three years younger now then Talbot was when he was traded. Because of all the names on the block and the free agent market, it might behoove the Rangers and Jeff Gorton to be aggressive with Georgiev and try and get ahead of the market to try and maximize the return for the young netminder.