8/24/23 | 11:50AM: On 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman said “I was wondering what this one was going to look like at the end of the summer, the end of the day. I’m not hugely surprised about the number. I heard that it was going to be in this range and basically what Lafreniere signs is a prove it contract. I didn’t think he was going to get traded.”
Friedman continued, “I just felt that the Rangers felt there was a lot more here and a lot more to work with here, they wanted to see what a new coach was going to be able to do. I also just felt that you weren’t going to be able to trade….they don’t want to trade him, they want to keep him because if they are going to trade him at some point, they want to get the worth of a number one overall pick and it’s just not right there, right now. I understand what everybody is doing here. Everybody is kind of in a position where they are saying ‘look, we’re going to try this under a new coach, see where it goes, see if we can make this all work out’ and then I, have to tell you, in the summer, if it’s good ,everybody is happy, if it’s not good next summer then I think you can move him at a number that teams can handle because I just feel that if it’s another year like this they are probably going to have to move on. I understand the gamble from the two sides with the contract because it gives him a bridge to get to where he thinks he can be, if it doesn’t work it puts everybody in a situation where it’s not going to be hard to move him at the number he’s going to be making. To me, it’s a two-year deal, but a one-year deal in New York and then we’ll see.”
10AM: The Rangers have announced Lafreniere’s two-year deal.
Adam Rotter: There was no real deadline until training camp started, but it’s about time that this got done. We all knew that this was going to be where things ended up, but why it took this long remains unknown.
It’s basically the same path, and contract, that the Rangers went down with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. It’s a low-money deal and it gives Lafreniere two-years, five total in his career, to show what he has or who he is. Chytil has progressed and signed a four-year deal last season. If Kaapo Kakko can stick in the top-six and continue to take steps forward then a multi-year deal will await him during or after the season.
But the Rangers and Lafreniere have faced the same issue since that ping-pong ball awarded the Rangers the #1 pick. Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin are ahead of him on the depth chart and there is no real spot for him on the PP. I’ve always looked at Lafreniere’s game/production/progress in the context of him basically being a third liner and with limited chance for improvement unless he moves to the right side. You can’t be trying to win and slot him ahead of player averaging 1.27 points per game with the Rangers in Panarin and a guy who has 104 goals the last two seasons (regular season and playoffs combined” in Chris Kreider. So he ends up on the third line and I think that the first three years of his career need to be taken with that context.
Maybe Peter Laviolette will be creative and go back to Gerard Gallant’s quick run of Lafreniere with Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko. Chris Kreider would slot onto a line, probably with Vincent Trocheck and either Blake Wheeler/Jimmy Vesey/Barclay Goodrow, that could potentially give the Rangers a big matchup advantage most nights and he could still remain in his spot in front of the net on the PP. Maybe he commits Lafreniere to the right side in the top-six or maybe it’s just sort of status quo again with Lafreniere on the third line.
He’s still just 21 and he’s had flashes of being that #1 pick. It took a few seasons, but Kaapo Kakko seems like he is figuring out how to best utilize his skillset at the NHL level. Lafreniere is still trying to figure it out and trying to do it without getting top-line minutes, without getting top-PP minutes and without the opportunity that usually comes with being picked that high. The Rangers are going to find him some opportunities and it’s going to be on him to take those opportunities and run with them. Otherwise we’ll have another two-years, or possibly just this coming season, of questions about him and his future with the Rangers.