Clock keeps ticking on Alexis Lafreniere bridge deal
The clock continues to tick for Alexis Lafreniere and the New York Rangers regarding a new contract.
It’s now been 100 days since the Blueshirts lost to the Devils in Game 7 of Round One, and there’s been no news on the matter. Among his teammates on the current roster, this is the longest any RFA has gone before signing their first SPC (standard player contract) with the Rangers.
Igor Shesterkin took 93 days back in 2021, but the entire league was dealing with a global pandemic that shortened two seasons. The Rangers’ brilliant netminder inked his first SPC on August 9, 2021 and it looks like Lafreniere may go well past that date.
While there’s plenty of stories surrounding the team this offseason, Lafreniere is front and center on everyone’s mind.
Alexis Lafreniere and the New York Rangers
This offseason opened up with president and general manager Chris Drury shooting down rumors that he was looking to trade the first overall pick from the 2020 NHL Draft.
“I have not talked to one GM about Alexis,” Drury stated in early July. “He’s a real good young player and we think his best days are certainly ahead of him. We’re thrilled he’s a part of our team and hope he’s a Ranger for a long, long time.”
A few days later, Alexis told the Jean Francois Chaumont of Le Journal de Montreal that he wasn’t concerned about rumors and was very happy to be with the Rangers. The 21 year-old forward even added that he had spoken with Drury and is confident a deal will get done.
So why is this taking forever to get done many fans are asking?
Let’s face it, Lafreniere has no leverage as an RFA without arbitration rights. Furthermore, there wasn’t any offer sheet and why would there be? Thus far, Lafreniere has posted just 91 points in 216 regular-season games which is low for a number one selection. While it’s understood he didn’t enter the league under similar circumstances like a Jack Hughes for instance, many believe Alexis’ production should be better despite mostly playing on a third line for the last three seasons.
As we await what many believe will be a bridge deal for two years and an AAV of around $2.5 million, there’s still a chance that this could go off the rails.
Possible outcomes for Alexis Lafreniere
The most likely scenario is a deal will be struck prior to the start of training camp in September.
There’s no reason why Alexis shouldn’t sign a one or two year deal and set himself up for a better contract when the flat cap era ends next summer. With salary cap expectations looking to climb by at least four million ($87M) in 2024 and another five million in 2025 ($92M), he certainly will get his payday.
That being said, this delay could very well be about his future role on the roster.
Lafreniere did not join a bottom-feeding team to start the 2020-21 season. The Rangers had just won another lottery after selecting Kaapo Kakko second overall in 2019 and were on the rise. They already had two established stars on left wing with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider. Although Lafreniere tried to make a switch to right wing, it was clear that it would best to keep him at his natural position.
The outlook for this season still appears to be on the third line at left wing along with center Filip Chytil. However, if there’s one area that Lafreniere’s camp could be fighting for, it’s likely to get more time on the power play.
In his brief career, Lafreniere has a grand total of six power play points (3 goals, 3 assists). That’s due in large part to the fact he averages just 1:28 minutes per game on the man advantage. Just to use Jack Hughes as a contrast, he’s averaged 3:07 per game which has helped him gather 61 points to his career totals up at least one man.
It’s pretty clear to me that Lafreniere will want to know more about how new head coach Peter Laviolette intends on using him before he puts ink to paper.
Another possible scenario is a holdout that could lead to a disastrous result for both sides.
If Alexis were to miss training camp and start the season late, it may mean a slow start. In my opinion, Lafreniere can ill afford such a beginning with so many in the hockey world ready to cement the term “bust” to his name.
Another possible outcome would be a trade.
Considering there was not even a whisper of an offer sheet for Lafreniere, it’s hard to see any team giving what he’s worth to the Rangers. Any deal would likely be to swap him out for a lesser skilled young roster player or another high first round draft pick that isn’t working out for that team.
A lose-lose scenario.
It may be early August, but that ticking clocking is going to get louder with each day he remains unsigned. The closer we get to the start of camp, the more this will be a distraction.