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Photo Credit: © Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Doerrie: Why the Maple Leafs Can and Should Acquire Alexandar Georgiev

On Saturday night Headlines, it was reported that the Rangers are fielding calls on goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. The 23-year-old has appeared in 20 games for the Rangers this season and posted a .909 SV%.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Rangers goaltending situation, they have Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Georgiev and Igor Sheshterkin. The former is a Rangers legend who has seen his time in the crease decrease this season and the latter is one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey. It’s clear the Rangers believe that Shesterkin is the goalie of the future, leaving Georgiev as the odd man out.

Enter the Leafs, whose biggest issue is back-up goaltending. Not only that…Frederik Andersen is 30 years old and will be turning 32 on October 2nd, 2021. Considering he’s a UFA in July 2021, I’d argue acquiring Georgiev, a goaltender who has demonstrated he can win games at the NHL level, is a potential solution to the impending free agency of Andersen.

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The Rangers have a significant need for talent up front and the Leafs have an abundance of one thing: talent upfront.

Let’s break down why this is a good idea and who could be involved to get it done.

Short-Term Goalie Need

For this season and next, it is obvious that the Leafs need a goaltender to shoulder more than 20 games of the workload. Andersen has played far too much already and it has impacted his playoff results. Georgiev has already played 20 games this season and it isn’t unreasonable to think he can play closer to 30-35, significantly reducing Andersen’s workload down the stretch.

The Leafs have 36 games remaining, and Andersen already has 36 games under his belt, or 78% of Toronto’s games. It’s worth noting that he’s been pulled in two of his last three starts and looks fatigued. Over 82 games, that is a 64 game pace — way too much. That would be four more games than last season.

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Considering Andersen is already showing signs of fatigue, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Sheldon Keefe has shown a willingness to play his backup on nights other than back-to-backs. Bringing in Georgiev would increase that likelihood, and Andersen would be given more nights off.

Conceivably, Georgiev could play 15 of the remaining 36 games, bringing Andersen’s total to 57. However, that would mean Georgiev plays 40% of the games, giving Andersen significant rest down the stretch. His season total would stand at 57, but cut his workload by almost half down the stretch, giving his body appropriate time to rest and recover for the playoffs. Looking ahead to next season, the Leafs could run with the tandem and significantly reduce Andersen’s workload. Assuming they get Georgiev signed (based on what goalies get out of ELC, it is very doable), it would give the Leafs an opportunity to have a legitimate goaltending tandem.

Long-Term Goalie Need

Joseph Woll is cutting his teeth in the NHL and will likely need one or two more seasons before he gets a legitimate look at the NHL level. With the NHL moving towards a 1A/1B situation, acquiring Georgiev allows some of the workload to be taken off Andersen in the short term, and creates an opportunity for a potential tandem in the long-term.

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The reality of the situation is, if the Leafs were to re-sign Andersen, he would be 32 before playing a game on his next contract. Based on age curves and where the league is going, Andersen is unlikely to perform at the same level on his next contract. Considering what he will likely cost, it would be unwise to sign him longer than 2 seasons, if they sign him at all.

Acquiring Georgiev now lessens the burden and potentially pushes the inevitable decline in Andersen’s play. If the Leafs choose to re-sign Andersen, it can be on the premise that his starts taper off. Then, it becomes a 1A/1B situation similar to what Boston has with Rask, who is 32 years old. That has worked for Boston, and it prevents Toronto from rushing Woll into a chunk of starts, which can be detrimental to a goaltender’s confidence and development.

From a long-term perspective, acquiring Georgiev allows the Leafs to run with a tandem, which has been successful for other teams in recent seasons.

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Leafs Surplus = Rangers Need

The Leafs and Rangers make sense as trading partners for one significant reason: each team has a surplus of what the other team needs. The Leafs have an embarrassment of riches up front, and the Rangers have a crowded crease of talent.

Goaltenders tend to have less value in a trade, however, the Leafs would have to send a forward with some salary to the Rangers for this to work. If you budget for the fact that Georgiev needs to be re-signed and likely costs between $1.5-$3 million on a short term deal, players like Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen fit that bill. Both make slightly more than that, which would give the Leafs some breathing room, and the Leafs have young players awaiting an opportunity.

Jeremy Bracco would be an interesting piece in this situation because he would likely get an opportunity in New York. Toronto has far too many skilled forwards for Bracco to get an opportunity to significantly impact in a top-six/power-play role.

The problem with that is money.

The Leafs have more than a few contracts to solve on the backend and if they can use one of their mid-range forwards (who would be a higher-end forward on most teams) to acquire a position of need, it would be wise to do so. The Rangers have a core that includes Kakko, Zibanejad, Panarin, and Chytil upfront. Kravtsov is in Hartford and will undoubtedly be a huge part of the Rangers in the near future. Trading for a player like Johnsson or Kapanen would add skill, speed and tenacity to the top end of the lineup.

Imagine if Panarin had someone like Johnsson or Kapanen to go get the puck for him, generate speed in transition and mix it up in the corners. It would likely create some space for him and some of the other Rangers.

The Lias Andersson Caveat

Two things are not secrets: Lias Andersson will not play for the New York Rangers — he’s formally requested a trade and it seems like a fresh start is needed — and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a knack for developing skilled forwards.

By all accounts, it seems like it didn’t work out in New York for the young Swede and the Rangers intend to honour his trade request. The Leafs have a proven development system with resources like Underhill, Belfry, Pellerin, and Popovic to name a few. Under their watch, Engvall went from potentially going unsigned, to NHL third liner. Gauthier’s skating has significantly improved. Holl, Dermott, Sandin all look to be staples on the Leafs backend for years to come. It is evident that the development system is working in Toronto, no arguments about that.

If the Leafs believe they can help the former 7th overall pick reach his potential, it is worth taking a swing at. Acquiring Georgiev and Andersson likely means another asset goes to the Rangers. Depending on who you talk to, Johnsson/Kapanen be considered higher-quality assets, simply because goaltenders aren’t viewed as hugely valuable trade assets. I tend to disagree, but I am not the GM who trades goalies.

If that holds true, the Leafs likely need to add a mid-round pick or prospect in the trade to get both of those pieces. The trade gets more complicated because, in my opinion, both Georgiev and Andersson have higher potential than Johnsson/Kapanen. But, Andersson is a diminished asset from a trade perspective because teams know he won’t play for the Rangers. To me, it is a risk worth taking.

Pull the Trigger

The Leafs and Rangers make far too much sense as trading partners. I’d be shocked if Dubas & Co. hadn’t thought through all of the potential positives I have laid out here. Leafs management is process-oriented and believes success is possible in the long and short term. Both teams can fill a need for each other, at least where the skilled forward and the goaltending is concerned.

I have been high on Georgiev for a while, but the Rangers know that Shesterkin is the goalie of their future (as he should be). In the same way, the Leafs know that they have prospects who need to be given an opportunity. Whether a roster player gets traded, which would be ideal for the salary purpose, including a player like Bracco could be what the Rangers want. Frederik Andersen isn’t getting any younger and lessening his workload sooner rather than later, could yield hugely positive results.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of possibilities to make this trade happen. I’d love to see the Leafs take a swing at Andersson as part of the trade, even if it means giving up a little bit more. There is a lot of potential in the two Rangers youngsters, who could be big parts of the Leafs future for a lot less than people think.