Rangers’ Lafreniere Can Earn Long-Term Extension

Alexis Lafreniere’s impressive play was one of the bright spots for the New York Rangers during both the 2023-24 regular season and postseason. The 22-year-old winger is entering the second year of a two-year, $4.65 million contract and he can earn a long-term extension if he can put together another strong season.

Lafreniere’s Play in 2023-24

In 2022-23, Lafreniere spent most of the season on the Rangers’ third line and their rarely-used second power-play unit. Despite finishing with 16 goals and a then-career-high 39 points, he faced heavy criticism and his name was mentioned in trade rumors. He was held without a point in seven playoff games as the team’s season came to a disappointing end in the first round.

In head coach Peter Laviolette’s first season with the Rangers in 2023-24, he gave Lafreniere an opportunity to play in the top six on a line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. He got off to a strong start with seven goals and four assists in his first 14 games.

Related: Rangers Need Lafreniere-Type Breakouts From Chytil & Kakko Next Season

Though Lafreniere did go through a scoring drought after his hot start, he continued to play well and generate scoring chances. He used his skill to help the Rangers on entries to the offensive zone and helped bring out the best in Panarin and Trocheck as they both finished with career-highs in points. Panarin finished with 120 and Trocheck finished with 77.

Lafreniere looked more comfortable both with and without the puck as the season went on and eventually, he broke out of his scoring slump. He finished the regular season with 28 goals and 29 assists including 26 goals and 25 assists at even strength. He once again played on the Rangers’ second power play unit and he did not get a lot of ice time on the man advantage.

In the playoffs, Lafreniere took his play to another level and was one of the Rangers’ best players. He was strong on the puck, did not shy away from the physicality of the postseason, and showed off great hands, scoring a few important goals on dekes. He ended the postseason with eight goals and six assists. All of his goals and three of his assists came at even strength.

Expectations for Lafreniere This Season

Lafreniere will be a very important player for the Rangers in 2024-25, after his breakout performance last season. He will likely remain on the same line as Panarin and Trocheck since all three are already signed for this season.

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere had a breakout 2023-24 season with the New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 2023-24, Lafreniere did a lot of things well and he needs to continue to play with the same energy and effort this season. By the end of the season, his skill was on full display and he looked comfortable and confident. However, there was a stretch of 31 games in the regular season when he scored just three goals. If he can avoid an extended scoring slump like that one, he could put up even bigger numbers this season.

Unlike most top draft picks, Lafreniere has not gotten a chance on the first power play unit. While the Rangers have an excellent top unit, the young winger could force his way into the first unit with his strong play.

For Lafreniere and the Rangers Moving Forward

Lafreniere showcased the skill which made him the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and the hope for the Rangers is that he will continue to develop and improve. He played his best hockey in the postseason and is certainly deserving of a role as a top-six forward.

The Rangers could look to extend Lafreniere before he becomes a restricted free agent after this season. Still, they are in a tough position as star goalie Igor Shesterkin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He is making just over $5.66 million and is due for a big raise.

In addition to Shesterkin, K’Andre Miller, Kaapo Kakko, and Zac Jones are set to become restricted free agents next offseason while Ryan Lindgren and Braden Schneider are both restricted free agents this offseason. Their deals will play a role in how much money the team can spend on an extension for Lafreniere.

One thing that did become clear last season is Lafreniere has developed into a very valuable player and at just 22 years old he still has room to improve. Another impressive season could earn the winger a long-term extension with the Rangers.

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