Alexis Lafreniere is proving doubters wrong

The last major piece of business –that we know of– for Chris Drury and the New York Rangers is the Alexis Lafreniere contract. The Rangers were never realistically going to find a trade this offseason that would match the on-ice value a bridge deal for Laf would bring, plus the return for the former #1 overall pick would leave many disappointed. So, it’s a forced match for now, but one that can be mutually beneficial for the Rangers Cup hopes and Lafreniere’s future earnings potential.

While that can change, it does look like the Rangers will be locking in Laf to a bridge deal and he will be a Ranger this season. As of today, the Rangers have about $2.3 million in cap space with 12 forwards and 8 defensemen on the roster. If we assume Connor Mackey’s $775,500 cap hit is in the AHL, and you swap Ben Harpur’s $787,000 with Zac Jones’ $812,500, the Rangers are at around $3 million in cap space.

While this seems like very little cap space, it’s enough to get the job done for now, albeit at the expense of future cap flexibility at the deadline. Injuries would play a role in future cap space too. It seems likely that the Alexis Lafreniere contract will be in the two year, $2.7 million range, per Evolving-Hockey, which would be in line with Alex Newhook’s 4 year, $2.9 million contract with Montreal.

Finding a bargain with the Alexis Lafreniere contract

While we know the Alexis Lafreniere contract will be an objective bargain based solely on his on-ice production, there will undoubtedly be fans disappointed with his production. It’s fair, since the Rangers have a very skilled #1 overall pick that simply hasn’t put it all together yet. Despite that, Lafreniere has been one of the Rangers’ best even strength producers. He doesn’t have the gaudy numbers for a number of reasons, both on the player and on the team.

This is an opportunity for the Rangers to find a bargain with the Alexis Lafreniere contract beyond the next two years. Evolving-Hockey has a three year deal at just $3 million, while the 4 years Newhook got is projected at $3.8 million. That is too rich for the Rangers at the current moment, but they can get creative to make three years and $3 million work.

The reason why the Newhook contract comes up as an Alexis Lafreniere contract comparable is based on production. Believe it or not, it’s similar, but Laf does have more goals and is coming off a career high in points.

If the Rangers are able to give Lafreniere the same 4 years and $3 million (estimating a little higher) that Newhook got, it would be an extreme bargain. However, this would walk Lafreniere right to unrestricted free agency at 25 years old. It’s a risk, but if it works out for the Rangers’ current window, then Lafreniere’s next contract would be offset by expiring contracts like Panarin, Trouba, and Kreider.

Still unlikely to happen

As much as we’d like the Alexis Lafreniere contract to be a medium term bargain, it takes two to tango. There’s little change Lafreniere would accept that kind of deal, as he’d kneecap his own earnings potential in the short term. We can argue that he’d be a team player taking a team friendly contract, but that rarely works out for the player.

Instead, we can expect the Alexis Lafreniere contract to be more of a ‘betting on himself’ deal, even if it means a one year deal at far less than we expect. A two year deal is still the most likely scenario, especially given the Rangers’ history of giving out two year bridge deals to forwards. In fact, I don’t think I can find a single forward that went from ELC to a long term deal in the cap era.

While the Newhook contract would be fantastic for the Rangers if Lafreniere takes it, it’s unlikely at best. However, any contract under $3 million is an on-ice bargain for the Rangers.


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