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Will Avalanche's Gamble in Net Pay Off?

On the surface, going with a goalie tandem of Georgiev and Francouz is risky for the defending Stanley Cup champions. But if we've learned anything about the Avalanche, it's that they know how to turn just about anything into pure gold.

In case you haven't been following, it's been a wild few weeks for the Colorado Avalanche since winning the Stanley Cup.

First, Joe Sakic moved to the director of hockey operations role, with Chris MacFarland becoming the GM. Then, they re-signed Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Manson and Darren Helm, but lost Darcy Kuemper and Nazem Kadri is unsigned still. 

Before all this, though -- and the reason they didn't bring back Kuemper, for cap reasons -- the Avalanche went out and acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers from a couple of draft picks that meant the team wasn't selecting until the sixth round.

It wasn't a high price to pay, but signaled a pretty sizeable change in the crease -- bringing along quite the risk. Because while Kuemper definitely wasn't special in the playoffs by any means -- Pavel Francouz didn't lose any of his seven starts -- he did get the job done, and his stats during the regular season went a long way in helping Colorado come so close to winning the Presidents' Trophy. 

But he's gone now. And now the Avalanche are going with Georgiev and Francouz as the tandem next year, leaving the team and its fanbase with more questions than answers.

But, still, a bit of excitement. There's uncertainty with how this pair will perform, although Francouz -- a popular figure in Colorado -- has been with the franchise for a few years now. In Georgiev's case, he'll finally have the chance to prove he can be a No. 1 in the NHL like many once thought he could, but he's going to have to do so after a rough season with the Rangers.

Here's the thing. Goalies are different. They develop at different speeds. Georgiev was 21 when he got into his first NHL action, a rarity these days, especially for a goalie that went undrafted. He made an impact right away, and with the uncertainty of when Igor Shesterkin was going to come over, some wondered if Georgiev was going to be the replacement for Henrik Lundqvist. Back-to-back 30-plus game seasons looked promising, but Shesterkin eventually made it over and emerged as one of the best prospects in the game.

That thrust Georgiev's name into trade rumors for the past three years, only for him to stick in New York. Once viewed as one of the better young backups in the game, his took a bit of a backseat to Shesterkin, which didn't help his trade value. Of the 44 goalies that played at least 30 games last year, Shesterkin was near the top in all 5-on-5 categories, including save percentage (.935, second), goals saved above average (23.71, third) and high-danger save percentage (.867, second). There's a reason he won the Vezina Trophy, after all. Georgiev's SP of .914 (28th), minus 1.26 GSAA (28th) and .811 HDSV percentage (34th) were ugly in comparison. That could be chalked up more to Shesterkin doing so much of the heavy lifting on a Rangers team that relied a lot on its star netminder, but Georgiev wasn't able to do quite the same.

So, he was ultimately moved, and now the real challenge begins. There's a lot of pressure for a championship-winning team to remain relevant, and the Avs lost some heavy hitters this summer. 

In Francouz, the 32-year-old filled in nicely during the team's playoff run when needed, although the advanced stats left a lot to be desired. Francouz has been excellent in stretches, and it didn't take long for him to figure things out after missing all of 2020-21 due to injuries. Again, a known commodity here, and one the team can still rely on when healthy.

So, what do you have? A pair of goalies that have never been starters, but both have a lot to prove. In a way, that's exactly what Kuemper had to do last summer when the Avs snagged him from Arizona, too. Many wondered if he was truly the guy capable of bringing the team on a long Cup run, especially after some injury concerns. In the end, it worked out.

In Georgiev's case, he's still young enough to mold into a No. 1 goalie, and if it works out, his $3.4-million cap hit for the next three years won't look that bad. And we know Francouz can be one of the better backups in the league. Sure, this has the potential to be a risky tandem that prevents the Avalanche from truly succeeding to the level we know they can, but we're talking about a team with Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, here.

At this point, it's intriguing. And the potential for this working out well is actually a ton of fun. Is it a downgrade? Sure, for now. They're not going to need Georgiev to be special -- a .910/.915 SP might be all it takes to get them back into Cup final contention -- and if we've learned anything, it's that Joe Sakic, Chris MacFarland and Co. know how to turn ash into pure gold. 

So, it might be worth trusting them on this. Georgiev was highly sought after for a reason. 



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