Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere still has more to prove

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) waves to fans after scoring a game-winning goal in overtime against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers recently re-signed Alexis Lafreniere to a two-year contract extension, ending a summer-long struggle to reach a deal with the young forward. As a former first-overall draft pick, Lafreniere has had a rocky start to his career, causing many fans to question his status as a full-time player on the Rangers.

This two-year extension should solidify his position on the team for the time being, but Lafreniere should not get too comfortable just yet. Heading into the 2023-24 season, he still has a lot to prove.

New Rangers coach expects top-six numbers from Lafreniere

Playing the role of a bottom-six player for the last three years, Lafreniere has only managed to score 91 points in 216 career games. These numbers are nowhere near where the Rangers expected him to be, but Lafreniere can only do so much when given very limited opportunities. With Peter Laviolette stepping into the spotlight as the Rangers’ new head coach, a new system may provide new possibilities for Lafreniere to properly develop into the star he was meant to be.

Since being hired, Laviolette has stated that he wants the Rangers’ younger players to have time to shine in the top six. While it may be hard for Lafreniere to find a full-time spot on the first or second line, it’s almost certain that he’ll receive increased playing time this season. In order to make the most of this chance, Lafreniere must seize these scoring opportunities and have a career year in point production.

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With his highest season point total coming at a measly 39 points, Lafreniere must prove his value and raise his career highs in every offensive category. Not every first-overall pick becomes an immediate star in the NHL, but after three seasons, it’s essential that Lafreniere begins to show some sign of development. Increasing his numbers by a handful of points every year is not a sustainable method of keeping his spot on the Rangers’ roster.

 “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.”

via Blue Seat Blogs

Will Lafreniere play out the full length of his contract with the Rangers?

While Lafreniere’s recent contract extension came with two years for him to prove himself, there should still be a sense of urgency from the young forward. Although he has struggled throughout his career, there are still many teams around the league that would pay handsomely to make an attempt at developing Lafreniere.

The chances of the Rangers moving Lafreniere quickly after signing this deal are very slim. However, if 2023-24 ends up being another disappointing performance, the Blueshirts could very easily look to trade him before his contract expires. It’s better to receive some form of compensation for a first-overall pick rather than watching them walk away at the start of free agency.

For now, Lafreniere must find a way to hit the ground running this upcoming season. When his new contract expires, the Rangers will still be in a terrible salary cap situation, and it will be extremely difficult for Lafreniere to sign a long-term extension. If he wants to remain a Ranger, he’ll have to prove his worth right away.