The New York Rangers already have their answer for who should back up Henrik Lundqvist this season, and it’s youngster Alexandar Georgiev.
The New York Rangers are in a unique position when it comes to their goalie situation. Henrik Lundqvist is firmly entrenched as their starter and is under contract until 2020-21. He’s also recently gotten back on the ice after suffering a knee injury.
They don’t want to commit to anybody as their long-term backup, as they’re waiting for Igor Shestyorkin to be able to come to the team from the KHL. The team has one more season to get through before their prized prospect can join the team, meaning one more season of figuring out who to use to spell Lundqvist on his nights off.
However, the answer to what can often be a difficult question is quite simple in this case. The Rangers should use Alexandar Georgiev to be their backup goalie for the upcoming season.
His cap hit is negligible, as he will count for only $792,500 (according to Spotrac) against a salary cap estimated to be around $80 Million according to the Associated Press. That’s a very good salary rate for any player, especially one who will make semi-regular appearances in net.
The Bulgarian goalie looked very strong in his NHL debut last season. In 10 games he had a .918 save percentage, which is very strong for a backup goalie. He had a concerning 3.15 GAA, but that is a product of playing behind a bad defense. His final eight appearances came after the team traded top defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Simply put, Georgiev did everything he could to keep the Rangers in games. He faced 33.1 shots per appearance, and that comes with one of his appearances being off the bench rather than as a starter, meaning he didn’t play the entire game.
He did all this in February and March of 2018, roughly a month after turning 22. For reference, Lundqvist was still playing in Sweden at age 22. Georgiev was also the youngest goalie in 2017-18 to make five or more appearances. He was also the youngest goalie with a save percentage above .891.
At an age where many goalies are struggling for starts in the AHL, Georgiev showed he is capable of keeping an NHL team in a game. Despite the small sample size, the Rangers should have no fear in trusting him to take the backup role on.
Not only should the Rangers trust Georgiev, there are few better options for the team to turn to. Amongst pending UFA goalies, only three had better save percentages than Georgiev. Of those, only Carter Hutton played in more than two games (32, with a .931 save percentage).
There are several pending restricted free agents that had better numbers than Georgiev, but they’ll all command more money than the Rangers can pay them, and there’s virtually no chance their teams wouldn’t match any offer sheet the Rangers submit.
If the Rangers let Georgiev be the backup this season, it will allow him to show that last season’s numbers weren’t a fluke. This will be great for the Rangers in their rebuild, as he will still have a final year on his entry-level contract after the 2018-19 season.
The Rangers will be able to trade him for draft capital after next season, with Shestyorkin coming over to take over as the backup to Lundqvist, and eventually as the Rangers starting goalie.
Letting Georgiev serve as the backup this season will help the Rangers in both the short and long terms.