Alexis Lafreniere not expected to get contract extension with Rangers this offseason

NHL: New York Rangers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafreniere is coming off a breakout season that saw him set NHL career highs with 28 goals and 57 points in his age-22 season for the New York Rangers. He looked every bit the part of an emerging star in the NHL, especially with his performance on the big stage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But it appears the Rangers and Lafreniere are holding off on a contract extension for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

“All indications are that the two sides will hold off on negotiations until next summer,” Vince Mercogliano of USA Today reported in his article Monday morning.

This upcoming season marks the last of Lafreniere’s two-year RFA deal that nets him $2.35 million annually. The Rangers could get ahead of next year’s negotiations and sign him to an extension starting on July 1, but it seems both sides are fine to wait.

“I always believe that if you’re an organization and you believe somebody is a core part of your team, you sign them as early as you can for as long as you can,” NHL insider Elliotte Friedman said on an early June episode of 32 Thoughts. “But this is one of those situations where I can see everyone agreeing to wait. If the Rangers are at all unsure here that this is what he really is, or the agent says ‘I want to give my guy more of a runway to show that he might be worth even more.’ This is one of those situations where I can see two sides deciding to wait and see what they’ve really got here.”

It’s a bit of a roll of the dice for both sides.

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Lafreniere certainly seems set up to continue developing into one of the Rangers’ top scorers, particularly after a postseason in which he tied for the Blueshirts lead with eight goals. And if he is able to follow up this past season with another gem, he’ll likely be paid accordingly as a key piece of their future, even though he’s not set to become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2026-27 season.

However, there’s no guarantee that he’ll top his output from this season, though coach Peter Laviolette did say he foresees more power-lay time in Lafreniere’s future. But any type of drop off back to his production in the first three seasons of his career could hurt the term and value he sees when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

For the Rangers and general manager Chris Drury, waiting another year does give them some extra time to assess if Lafreniere is the real deal, or if he was simply boosted by playing alongside Artemi Panarin, who had 120 points in 2023-24. On the flip side, if Lafreniere continues to progress on an upward trajectory, he’ll earn a more expensive deal than he would have this summer.

Drury and the front office have a lot on their plate, and it appears they’re looking to be aggressive in other areas this offseason. Waiving veteran Braclay Goodrow, who was claimed by the San Jose Sharks, to free up $3.6 million in salary cap space may just be the beginning. Since Lafreniere’s contract doesn’t need to be addressed this summer, it allows Drury to focus on more urgent matters.

Plus, they’ll have a better grasp of their cap situation next summer. Considering that Panarin will still be under contract, and Igor Shesterkin and K’Andre Miller will also command new deals, it’s gonna be a tricky tightrope for Drury to walk. Especially if Shesterkin aims to become the highest paid goalie in the NHL before he hits UFA status after this upcoming season.

At least for now, that’s a next year problem. It appears the Rangers will pursue a Stanley Cup championship this upcoming season with Lafreniere at a bargain of a cap hit, likely for the last time in his career.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

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