With each day the New York Rangers boast their three-pronged goaltending threat, the ever-growing unease and tension of a trade continues to build. Between Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin, and Alexandar Georgiev, the Rangers have locked themselves in a position of three NHL-caliber goaltenders but only two roster spots available. Coming up on two weeks since the Rangers called up Shesterkin, the likelihood of a Georgiev trade has grown to inevitable as the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaches.
With two years remaining on Lundqvist’s $8.5 million contract and retirement or trade seemingly unlikely, Georgiev becomes the most likely candidate to be shipped out of Manhattan. Luckily, the Rangers’ brass are pretty familiar with this situation, having dealt previous backups Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta, and getting great value from both deals. In both cases, they failed to meet expectations as a starter with their new teams and inevitably returned to a backup position.
The overflow of goalie talent in the Rangers roster is an excellent problem to have, but keeping three goalies consistently just isn’t a realistic system. As a pending restricted free agent, Georgiev’s value may never be higher with his entry-level cap hit. The Rangers could potentially be trading away the rightful heir to Lundqvist’s throne, making the return all that much more critical. Luckily, there’s plenty of recent goalie trades to speculate what a fair return should be for a player of Georgiev’s caliber.
Similar Goalie Trades
Georgiev is a 23-year-old backup goaltender who’s played in 66 games, starting in 60 of those contests. Through his career, he’s posted .913 save percentage (SV%), 3.02 goals against average (GAA), and 30 wins. This season, he’s been featured considerably more often as he’s evolved into more of a 1B option rather than just Lundqvist’s backup. He’s posted a .910 SV%, 3.11 GAA, two shutouts and 12 wins in 23 games this season. It’s fair to say that a young goaltender of his caliber isn’t a common commodity on the NHL trade market. Even still, the recent trade market for goalies can indicate what NHL front offices are willing to part with in a deal of this caliber (i.e. trading for a future starter that’s under 30 years old).
From this list, it’s fair to say that in most cases, the value for a potential starting young goaltender is somewhere in the realm of a second-round selection and a second draft pick or younger asset. In terms of comparables, the most similar goalie to Georgiev would be Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, Steve Mason to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013, or Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks in 2016. In all three cases, the Flyers, Sharks and Leafs were trading for what they thought could be their future starter.
Considering Georgiev’s similarities in both age and stats, a team willing to take a risk on their net-minder for the future would need to part with a decent draft pick and either a mid-to-high tier prospect or serviceable roster players.
Analyzing Potential Trade Partners
Georgiev’s name has been connected to a few teams in recent weeks. The Sharks, Ottawa Senators and primarily the Maple Leafs have emerged as potential Georgiev suitors. However, it’s not a matter of who in this case, as he’d be an excellent fit on nearly any team in the league. It’s more of a matter of return and if teams are willing to match the Rangers lofty asking price.
Reports have emerged that the Rangers’ ideal return would be a young player that they can insert into their lineup right away. That’s somewhat higher than what previous trades have indicated, but certainly still within a reasonable price.
Suitor #1: Toronto Maple Leafs
Amongst those teams listed as potential suitors, the most popular player connected to Georgiev is Jeremy Bracco of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 22-year-old Toronto Marlie has yet to see action in the NHL but has had plenty of success in the minors, scoring 0.86 points per game. With 112 of his 143 American Hockey League points being assists, he’s solidified himself as a playmaking winger but how that transfers to the NHL is still in question.
Packaging him with a high draft pick is a possibility, but as the Rangers have made clear, they’d want a player to slot into their lineup immediately. Bracco doesn’t exactly fit that bill. Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and rookie Pierre Engvall have also been connected to trade rumors, but parting with a roster player of their pedigree may be a price too high to pay for the Leafs, especially since they’d be trading for a back up instead of a future starter.
Suitor #2: San Jose Sharks
Another name floating around has been the Sharks’ Kevin Labanc. The 24-year-old winger is enjoying a 25-point campaign following his breakout season last year. With Martin Jones struggling mightily and Aaron Dell serving as the temporary starter, Georgiev would be an excellent fit for the Sharks. However, a young roster player who’s averaging 0.53 points-per-game is quite the return, even if it’s for a future starter.
Should the two sides trend away from a one-for-one deal, Dylan Gambrell may be the most fitting name amongst the Sharks system. The 23-year-old forward has enjoyed plenty of success at the AHL level, averaging 0.89 points-per-game. He played in 30 games with the Sharks this season, logging two goals, four assists, 19 shots, and an average time-on-ice of 10:48. His numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, but he fits the bill as a potential roster player, especially for the Rangers’ weak wing depth.
He’s had glimpses of skill and talent in San Jose but has failed to consistently stay with the top squad. He thrives on the defensive side of the puck and has the potential to thrive on the penalty kill. Fresh off a two-year extension, worth $700,000, Gambrell is a cheap depth option for the Rangers. Package him with another mid-to-high-end draft pick and the trade becomes far more realistic.
Suitor #3: Ottawa Senators
The Senators’ long-time starter, Craig Anderson, will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. With Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg both struggling, their goaltending remains in question for the near future. Despite being a definitive seller at this year’s trade deadline, the Senators may look to buy in on a young goaltender that could lead them through their rebuild.
Amongst the Senators loaded prospect pool, their 2016 11th-overall selection, Logan Brown, often goes forgotten. At just 21 years old, he still has plenty of potential to meet original expectations, but he’s failed to make an impact at the NHL level. He logged eight points in 23-games with the Senators this season but was inevitably sent down to Belleville where he’s averaged over a point-per-game.
Without a top goaltending prospect on their roster, Georgiev would jump in as the frontrunner for their netminder of the future in Ottawa. A package including Brown meets the Rangers asking price and gives the Senators an answer in net as they look towards the future.
Pressure to sell at the deadline will continue to build as the Rangers’ playoff chances become less and less likely. As long as Shesterkin continues in the NHL, Georgiev will remain on top as the Rangers’ most likely trade candidate. History indicates the return will be significant, but it’s about finding the suitor willing to pay the price for the young goaltender.