Alexandar Georgiev “really blessed” to become the Avalanche’s No. 1 goaltender
On the eve of NHL free agency, newly acquired Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev on Tuesday spoke about the opportunity he has been dreaming about since entering the league in 2017.
The Avs traded for the former New York Rangers backup to Henrik Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin last week. He was immediately named to the No. 1 role by Colorado president of hockey operations Joe Sakic. Georgiev’s addition eliminates the need for the Avs to go after a goalie in free agency on Wednesday.
“It feels special. I’ve been hoping to get an opportunity to play for a team like this. It’s special,” Georgiev said on a Zoom call from Finland. “They just won the Cup, obviously, and they have the core that’s going to stay for a while together and I get an opportunity to play for them. It’s unbelievable. Felt unreal. And really blessed for that.”
Georgiev, who is replacing unrestricted free agent Darcy Kuemper and will work with Pavel Francouz in the Avs’ new goaltending tandem, was born in Bulgaria and raised in Russia and Finland. He currently spends the offseason in Finland and had lunch with Colorado goaltending coach and Finnish native Jussi Parkkila after last week’s trade.
“It seems like we have a lot in common and he has a plan for me,” Georgiev said of Parkkila. “He’s really excited to work with me and it’s the same for me. I’m super, super happy to work with Jussi.”
Georgiev has also communicated with a handful of Avalanche players.
“I’ve gotten texts from a few of the guys; felt super nice for them to welcome me to the team,” he said.
As a teenager in Finland, Georgiev played on a team with Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen and the two typically train together in the summer.
“He’s an awesome guy,” the goalie said. “It’s nice to have a friend already on the team and I’m looking forward to meeting all the other guys.”
Georgiev was acquired from the Rangers as a restricted free agent coming off a $2.425 million cap hit. It only took three days for the Avs to lock him into a three-year deal worth $10.2 million ($3.4 million cap hit). He said the opportunity to join the Stanley Cup champions motivated him to get under contract.
“I’ve known that I would be traded in the offseason,” Georgiev said. “I was hoping to land in a great spot and when I heard it’s Colorado Avalanche, it’s just as good as I could hope for. The team is unreal. I felt the support I needed and a chance I’ve always dreamed of. So it was pretty easy for me to want to be with that team for three years.”
The Avalanche enters free agency with seven forwards, five defensemen and two goalies on one-way contracts, plus forward Alex Newhook and defenseman Bo Byram still on their two-way entry-level deals but firmly entrenched with the big club.
Forward Artturi Lehkonen is a restricted free agent and is also expected to be back next season and play a big role. Young forwards Ben Meyers, 23, and Oskar Olausson, 19, are also under contract as well as veteran defenseman Jacob MacDonald, 29.
Colorado’s dire need is a proven second-line center to replace Nazem Kadri, whom the Avs likely won’t be able to re-sign after giving fellow top-six forward Valeri Nichushkin an eight-year, $49 million contract on Monday. Newhook, 21, could eventually be that second-line center but the Avs might go after two-time Stanley Cup-winner Evgeni Malkin if the future Hall of Famer wants to take far less than his $9.5 million cap hit last season.
Malkin, 35, has played his entire 16-year NHL career with the Penguins and is testing the free-agent market for the first time. In 981 career games, he has 444 goals and 1,146 points (57th-most all-time).
If the Avs can sign a big name like Malkin to a short-term deal, they will have to complete the roster with modest additions. But the core of the team, sans Kadri, is already intact.
“We know who the free agents are going to be,” said Avs general manager Chris MacFarland, who replaced Sakic in that role on Monday. “We run it through multiple lenses and how we can try and make the pieces fit. It’s something that Joe has talked about over the years. We embrace an organizational philosophy with our scouts: We’re going to leave no stones unturned to try and make the team better.”