Alexandar Georgiev’s Next Save: Here or Elsewhere?

What is next for Alexandar Georgiev’s goalie career?

The New York Rangers’ season has ended, and following the promotion of Chris Drury to President and General Manager, there are a lot of decisions to be made about the future of the roster. One of those decisions involves goaltending, specifically Alexandar Georgiev.

Back in October of 2020, the New York Rangers signed Georgiev to a two-year, $2.425 million contract. The AAV ended up being higher than was expected, as Georgiev was coming off an entry-level contract, but it allowed the Rangers to avoid an arbitration hearing. With the departure of Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers deal with Georgiev, last season’s three goalie rotation was adjusted and solved for 2020-21.

Georgiev appeared in 19 of the 56 games this 2020-21 season while his net-mates Igor Shesterkin who played in 34 games and Keith Kinkaid with 8 games. Although he was between the pipes more so at the beginning of this season, he has only started in five of the last 25 games. He went 8-7-2 this season with two shutouts, a GAA of 2.71, and .905 Sv% using conventional numbers, and using advanced stats he posted a GSAA (goals saved above average) of -2.01, and a GSAx (goals saved above expected) of -5.89. In many ways it was an underwhelming year for Georgiev, but it was just 19 games in a weird year with spread out playing time.

During this season, the 25 year-old goalie struggled when it was his turn to step up, especially while Shesterkin was out on an injury which led to Kinkaid being called up. He got into an altercation with Tony DeAngelo in January following an overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. He got cut by his eye in a game in February and had to have his knee put back into place while playing in April, both times he stayed in the game. In his last start of this season on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals, Georgiev stopped 31 out of 34 shots, resulting in a 4-2 loss for the Rangers. It was his fourth start in the last 10 games.

“[...] it’s no secret that Georgiev has struggled against the rest of the East Division [...] Those have been the first real difficulties of his short career. Both Georgiev and Quinn have pointed to mental struggles as the culprit. It’s a new obstacle for Georgiev [...] Asked what he worked on during his layoff with Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, Georgiev admitted he focused more on what is between his ears than what he has been doing between the pipes. (NY Post)

With one year left on his contract, the Rangers could use Georgiev as a trade piece to entertain interested teams, many of which who had shown interest prior to his re-signing and before the trade deadline. Since it appears that the Rangers organization have been and are willing to entertain offers for the Bulgarian goaltender, he has the opportunity to grow into a top role for a team looking for a change or for a younger goalie, as well as become the #1 goalie or solid backup goalie.

I believe the best outcome for him would to be traded to a team where he will be the starting goaltender. The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft is also fast approaching, the Rangers will have to expose one goalie who is under contract as per the draft rules. Shesterkin will be exempt, and Kinkaid is under contract for one more year meaning it will be either him or Georgiev eligible to be exposed and drafted by the Seattle Kraken.

Wednesday night’s game may have been the last game that Georgiev will have played as a Ranger because of what could easily transpire this summer. The obvious possibility is that he could be traded individually or as a part of a larger deal. Then there is the less obvious and unexpected twist, where the Rangers surprise us and expose him for the NHL Expansion Draft instead of Kinkaid. (I feel this is the least likely option, but never say never!)

Regardless, if Georgiev were to depart the roster they’d have options of replacing him. Either Kinkaid would assume the role of backup, there would be a chance to promote one of Adam Huska and Tyler Wall from the minors, or the team would need to acquire another goalie to fill Georgiev’s spot on the roster for the 2021-22 season.