What should the Rangers do with Alexis Lafreniere?

alex lafreniere, rangers
May 6, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenière (13) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have taken care of business this offseason. They hired a new head coach, added experience by signing veteran forwards, and extended players crucial to the team’s success. The one thing the Blueshirts have yet to do, however, is re-sign RFA Alexis Lafreniere to a new deal. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding this situation, and there are a few options the Rangers have regarding the former first-overall draft pick.

Should the Rangers sign Alexis Lafreniere to a bridge deal?

The easiest and most likely solution to the Lafreniere situation is to simply extend him. Coming off of his entry-level contract, Lafreniere hasn’t really had the chance to develop and perform at the elite level that fans believe he can reach. Most first-overall picks earn a hefty pay rise following their ELC, but that shouldn’t be the case for Lafreniere.

Throughout his career, Lafreniere has totaled only 91 points in 216 games. He’ll definitely earn a nice contract, wherever he ends up, but it won’t be anything too lucrative.

That could be beneficial to the Rangers, who do not have a lot of cap space remaining to work with this year. After quite a busy offseason for GM Chris Drury, the Rangers are left with only roughly $2.3 million.

Based on Lafreniere’s underwhelming stats and unpredictable future, it would be smart for the Rangers to sign him to a two-year bridge deal in order to give him the chance to prove himself. In an ideal world, this deal would come at no more than $2 million per year.

“In a recent interview, the first overall pick in 2020 didn’t seem to concerned about a trade and was confident an agreement would be reached.”

Forever Blueshirts

Despite this confidence from Lafreniere that he will remain on the Rangers for the foreseeable future, there is always the chance that the team may look at other options.

Should the Rangers trade Alexis Lafreniere for a fully established NHL player?

The biggest benefit of Lafreniere being an RFA rather than a UFA is that the Rangers have the option to trade his signing rights. Unless an offer sheet appears from another team, New York will have all the leverage in this situation regarding where he ends up playing. If the two sides are unable to reach a deal, New York could always trade Lafreniere to another team.

Lafreniere should only be traded if the return package is sufficient, however. While he hasn’t exactly flourished in the NHL just yet, it’s important to remember that Lafreniere was a first-overall pick. He has the chance to explode into a star at any moment if given the right playing environment.

If the Blueshirts were to consider trading away the 21-year-old Canadian forward, they must look for compensation based on what he will be worth in the future, not on what he has done so far. Many young teams, such as Vancouver or Ottawa, would likely pay a decent sum to see Lafreniere wear their colors.

Making a deal for an already-established player would be the only way to make a Lafreniere trade worth it. The Rangers are in their “win now” window, where they have a team that they know has the ability to make a deep playoff run. Trading a name like Lafreniere for draft picks would be a waste, as it wouldn’t help them on their current mission to bring home the cup. A steady, top six forward who could consistently put up at least 50-60 points minimum would be required for fans to accept that a trade had been made.