New York Rangers storylines: Developing Alexis Lafreniére; addressing needs on the wing, defense, and more

The New York Rangers have hit another stumbling block that they hope is just a small bump in the road. After picking up their first consecutive regulation losses of the season, some new storylines have emerged to go with some previous ones.

Alexis Lafreniére’s development is at the top of the list. Let’s dive in further.

Are the Rangers developing Alexis Lafreniére correctly?

Alexis Lafreniére’s development has been a storyline all season that comes and goes depending on how many minutes he get’s in a particular game. This current rough patch, coupled with some scoring issues, has brought it back to the surface.

His diminishing ice time over the last several games, including being benched in the third period of a 1-0 loss against the Predators on Sunday forced Gerard Gallant to address the issue.

“I just want him to play a strong game and be stronger on the puck,” Gallant noted about the benching. “We talked about those turnovers and he was trying to make too many of those cute plays that didn’t work.”

The question is simple, are the Rangers as an organization doing all they can for the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft to succeed? Third line minutes wouldn’t be a problem if he was getting PP1 time, but that’s not the case. Lafreniére is on the second unit, but the first unit never comes off the ice and usually leaves 30 seconds for that unit to work with.

On the flip side, Lafreniére is still playing regularly and in a winning environment. He’s not being rushed and pushed to succeed which could have issues in and of itself.

This is going to be a storyline that will dog Gallant and Lafreniére all season. Reminder, this is his sophomore season and I would be more concerned if this was year three.

Addressing issues on wing, defense, and a new backup

patrik nemeth
Nov 16, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Patrik Nemeth (12) and Montreal Canadiens right wing Josh Anderson (17) battle for the puck during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are suffering on right wing after jettisoning Pavel Buchnevich for cap reasons. While Kaapo Kakko is playing better, he isn’t producing as a first line winger. At least not yet.

With that said, 4th line grinder Dryden Hunt on the second line isn’t an answer either.

Chris Drury needs to address this wisely. Before trading assets for a rental, he should work with Gallant to move Filip Chytil to the wing. Otherwise, start picking up the phone and pay a premium for a rental before the deadline. Vegas may get Jack Eichel back in January and Reilly Smith seems like the most likely player to be traded to make cap room.

Another elephant in the room that needs to be addressed is the play of Patrik Nemeth. While he is a good shot blocker, the veteran also has an uncanny ability to be on the ice for goals against. Per Natural Stat Trick, he leads the Rangers (min 6 games played) in goals against per 60 minutes at 3.73. Nemeth also has the lowest CF% for all Rangers’ defensemen at 35.99.

In contrast, his partner Nils Lundkvist, who has been scratched in favor for Jarred Tinordi in some games has a 47.35 CF% and 2.44 GA/60. If the rumors are true that Drury is looking to upgrade his third pair defense, I hope it’s to get a better partner for Lundkvist.

Finally, the Rangers will not be extending Alexandar Georgiev this summer. His trade value is going up and they will need to decide when it will be best to get value for him. Is it the trade deadline or the draft? If it’s the deadline, then they will need to add a veteran backup.

Anton Khudobin at 50% retained by the Stars would be $1.66M next season and a solid option to backup Shesterkin.

Trading Vitali Kravtsov

It’s possible that this wouldn’t be as big a storyline if it weren’t for the fact that Kravtsov is the second top first round selection that wants out of the organization. Lias Andersson, a 7th overall pick fro 2017 bolted for Sweden from the Wolf Pack in 2019. He was traded for a second round pick in 2020.

The 2018 1st rounder (9th overall) refused assignment to Hartford and is in the KHL awaiting a trade. The 21 year-old has just 4 points in 20 NHL games and has minimal value.

Latest reports indicate that Drury wants another top prospect in return, but no one is willing to do it. Maybe the Rangers get what they want for him, or he is the sweetner in a bigger deal this season.

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