When Darcy Kuemper priced himself out of Denver last summer, the Colorado Avalanche moved in a different direction, acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers in exchange for three draft picks. The Avalanche swiftly re-signed the restricted free agent to a three-year deal worth $10.2 million.
At the time, it was a considerable risk, given that the 27-year-old had only a career-high 32 starts in a single season and had yet to prove that he could handle the lion’s share of starts for an NHL club. Added, Colorado was coming off a Stanley Cup championship and was well-positioned to make another deep postseason run.
Still, questions remained about Georgiev’s longevity and ability to be the 1A goalie for a Cup contender.
Georgiev quickly silenced his doubters, posting a .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals against average with two shutouts in the first three months of the season. From January on, it was more of the same, as the Bulgarian netminder exuded consistency, recording a .920 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average with three more shutouts over the final 36 regular season games.
Going into the postseason, the Avalanche’s injuries sustained during the regular season proved too much to overcome against a deep Seattle Kraken team and dropped their first-round series in seven games.
Just like that, Colorado was out of the playoffs.
However, the Avalanche could take solace in the fact navigating around the salary cap to let a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender leave in free agency and replacing him with an unproven commodity was rewarded.
And that is putting it mildy: Georgiev was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
In 2022–23, the 27-year-old accounted for 13.4 goalie point shares (GPS) according to Hockey Reference, a statistic meant to quantify the number of points contributed by a player due to his play in goal.
Again, Georgiev did not have the opportunity to be a 1A goalie in his career before last year, so it is certainly fair to expect that he would post career bests in a season that saw him make 62 starts. He was the fourth-best netminder in the NHL in terms of GPS only behind Juuse Saros (14.9), Connor Hellebuyck (14.3) and Ilya Sorokin (14.1) and finishing ahead of 2023 Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark (13.2)
Georgiev finished seventh in the Vezina voting and earned his first all-star selection, both well-deserved honors and recognition for his play a season ago.
Of course, not all top goaltenders played at least 60 games, so it is essential to consider GPS relative to the number of games played.
For Georgiev, he posted a 0.216 GPS per games played, the fifth-best mark in the NHL in 2022–23. Despite only playing in 49 games, Ullmark recorded the best GPS/GP (.269) among NHL goaltenders, having to split duties with Jeremy Swayman, which speaks volumes about his consistency despite not playing every night.
Still, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Georgiev going forward, mainly because of how he performed coming off the worst GPS/GP (0.115) of his career in his final season with the New York Rangers.
Not every goaltender is perfect, and the same goes for Georgiev. He had his moments last year taking on a full season of goaltending duties, but the final statistic I wanted to look at is quality starts.
A quality start is officially defined as a game above the league average in save percentage (90.8 currently) or a game with fewer than 20 shots and a save percentage above 88.5.
One higher than his uniform number and fourth-most quality starts for Georgiev in the 2022–23 season behind only Hellebuyck (44), Ullmark (43) and Sorokin (42). Considering that Kuemper had just 28 quality starts in his first year with the Washington Capitals, the Colorado front office is making that move look brilliant.
Georgiev accounted for just six really bad starts (RBS), which is a start resulting in a save percentage under 85.0. Of NHL goaltenders who made at least 40 starts, Georgiev was tied for third-best with Hellebuyck in that department, leaving just 15 starts that were neither considered a QS or an RBS.
Looking ahead to the 2023–24 season, the Avalanche were focused on revamping their forward lines, bringing in the likes of Ross Colton, Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Johansen and Miles Wood, which should balance out the lines more consistently with Gabriel Landeskog out for the year.
However, none of that will matter if Georgiev regresses considerably. He has earned the benefit of the doubt after silencing his critics last year, and if he replicates his 2022–23 campaign, Georgiev’s $3.4 million AAV contract will look like one of the biggest bargains in the NHL.