Alexis Lafreniere will be given the opportunity to address the Rangers RW hole.

The NY Rangers wrapped up their offseason with last night’s two year Alexis Lafreniere contract. It took a little longer than expected to finalize the Lafreniere contract, but it’s done, and there are no more loose ends heading into training camp. The Lafreniere contract comes with a $2.325 million cap hit, very manageable for the Rangers given their current cap situation. It’s a short term win, but a long term gamble.

1. For the overall cap situation, the Lafreniere contract is pretty well structured. The cap hit is manageable, leaving the Rangers with about $725k in cap space when they trim the roster to 13F/7D/2G. That gives them some wiggle room for injury call ups, should the situation arise. If they are lucky and don’t need that space, then they will have a bit more to work with at the deadline to improve the roster as needed.

If you’re using CapFriendly (I linked to PuckPedia), then just know they have Connor Mackey listed as the 8D on the NHL roster, which puts them over the cap. Mackey isn’t making the club out of camp. The 6D/7D will be a rotation between Zac Jones and Erik Gustafsson.

2. On the Lafreniere contract itself, it’s a short term win for the Rangers in their current Cup window to win. They needed to find bargains, and there aren’t many better bargains than a 21 year old, 40 point, top-six winger for $2.325 million. Even if Lafreniere does nothing more and his development stagnates, it’s a good bargain for the Rangers. Naturally we will all be wildly disappointed if he doesn’t develop more, but for now the Lafreniere contract is a bargain.

3. The problem with the bridge deal is that should Lafreniere take a big step forward, as discussed yesterday, then the Rangers shoot themselves in the foot in two years. By that point, Kaapo Kakko and Ryan Lindgren will be on their third deals and will have significant bumps in their salaries, Braden Schneider will be due a second contract and a big raise, and K’Andre Miller will be due his third contract along with Lafreniere. Conservatively, doubling their approximately $11 million cap hit is expected.

Oh, and Igor Shesterkin is also up at the same time as Lafreniere and Miller.

4. For all the arguing we can do about the “lack of foresight” by Chris Drury, there wasn’t much he could have done here. I’m not his biggest fan, especially with how he started his tenure in New York, but a lot of the deals were inherited. In particular, the Jacob Trouba, Artemi Panarin, and Chris Kreider contracts were all done before he was promoted.

For what it’s worth, Mika Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck, and Barclay Goodrow were all done by Drury, so he’s not innocent here either. The Goodrow contract being the worst offender, of course.

This is the price you pay when building a win-now team perhaps 1-2 years too early. And again, that ship has sailed so there’s no real point in arguing about it anymore.

5. The good news is that Goodrow and Trocheck both have moveable contracts in the next year or two. We are entering the two biggest money years in Goodrow’s contract, which makes him a bit easier to move once we get past those, if he lasts that long with the Rangers. Trocheck’s no-move expires at the same time as Goodrow’s real dollars decrease, plus the Rangers can move him after paying his signing bonus to eliminate more real dollars moving with him.

There are outs, and how the Rangers utilize those outs will be wholly dependent on the salary cap ceiling. Revenues are up, but that Bally Sports Regional Network debacle will have a negative impact.

6. On the player himself, the Lafreniere contract is probably seen as “too much” to a vocal subset of the fanbase that is already calling him a bust. That’s a bit unfair, at least in my opinion, but there are valid concerns with his lack of development and rumored off-ice commitment challenges. Peter Laviolette will be the be-all-end-all of coaches for Lafreniere. If Laviolette gets through to Lafreniere, then this contract will be a great bargain for two years, and then bite the Rangers on his next deal. If not, then Lafreniere won’t be long for New York.

It’s a show-me deal, both for player and for team.

7. The Lafreniere contract at this duration/range was never really a secret, mind you. The Rangers didn’t have much space to work with, Lafreniere didn’t have the numbers for more money, and he didn’t have leverage. That’s the trifecta for a low cost bridge deal that kicks the big cap hit can down the road.

Basically this contract, along with all the others designed to end in the next 2-4 years, are structured as part of a win-now strategy. If Lafreniere takes the next step forward, then his next deal will be reflective of his skills and development path, and will show he’s a part of the future. Much like Filip Chytil’s recent four year deal.


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