Hartnett: Georgiev, DeAngelo have big Rangers roles now - but could be useful chips later

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The Rangers avoided two arbitration hearings by signing restricted free agents Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev to fair market contracts.

DeAngelo’s new deal, a two-year pact worth $4.8 million in average annual value, is right in line with productive defensemen of a similar age bracket. Georgiev, who is inked for the next two seasons at just over $2.4 million AAV, will be paid the expected rate of a backup netminder who would be capable of competing for the starter’s net on another team.

Both of these 24-year-olds could potentially play larger roles in the upcoming 2020-21 season. The Rangers would be wise to flip DeAngelo to the left side of defense, given the possibility of highly-touted prospect Nils Lundkvist arriving from the Swedish Hockey League and assuming a third-pair role on the right side.

It doesn’t make sense burying a $4.8 million DeAngelo behind Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba as a third-pair, right-sided defenseman. Coming off a career-best 53-point season, DeAngelo shouldn’t play third fiddle and his offense-driving abilities must be properly utilized.

That said, the 5-foot-11 blue liner’s defensive end struggles during the 2020 qualifying playoffs were alarming. DeAngelo must evolve into a more complete defenseman as he enters his prime. If he fails to make such progress, it’s hard to envision Madison Square Garden as his long-term address. It’s entirely possible that at some point down the line, the Rangers remove him from the logjam of right-handed defensemen to fill a need position or gain valuable draft picks.

As for Georgiev, his role could increase depending on whether No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin avoids a sophomore slump. It’s impossible to avoid the fact that Shesterkin’s superlative 12-game return (10-2 record and .932 save percentage) is a suspiciously-small sample. Shesterkin has the ability and drive to shoulder the majority of starts, though it’s handy to have Georgiev ready to step in should injury or a dip in performance arise.

Should Georgiev continue to play at or above his career .913 save percentage, the desperation of teams needing a No. 1 goalie could force the Blueshirts to eventually trade the blocked netminder, similar to when Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta’s superb work as understudies sparked interest around the league.

For now, DeAngelo and Georgiev have significant roles to play in the Rangers’ present.

Follow Sean Hartnett on Twitter: @HartnettHockey

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