K’Andre Miller, Restricted Free Agent (Arbitration Eligible)
This past season was a story of ups and downs for Miller. At best, he looked like a budding star, using his unique physical abilities – such as his long reach – to stifle other teams’ star players. He also added some memorable goals: the breakaway against the Flyers in December and the tying goal with 0.1 seconds left against Dallas stand out.
But, Miller struggled at times this season, including in the recent series against the Devils. After Games One and Two, Miller fell off and the Devils started to skate around him and Jacob Trouba. He had only one point, coming on the first goal of the series: a primary helper to Vladimir Tarasenko.
The bottom line: Miller has star potential, and it is very possible that he reaches that here in New York. Even through the struggles, there is so much untouched potential that Chris Drury won’t want to lose.
Prediction: The Rangers bring back Miller on a two-year bridge, similar to what they do to a lot of their young players (Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko for example), for around $3-3.5 million AAV.
Alexis Lafreniere, Restricted Free Agent (Arbitration Eligible)
When that ping pong ball came up with the New York Rangers logo in the summer of 2020, the amount of jubilation the franchise and fans showed will always be remembered. These emotions were because of Alexis Lafreniere.
Lafreniere, the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, had obvious star potential and was coming into a good situation in New York. But, he has not been the player New York has expected him to be.
Part of it has to be the situation: compared to other recent first-overall selections, Lafreniere came into the most talented lineup that already had two solidified top left wingers in Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider. So, it was extremely difficult for the 21-year-old to get top-six minutes in his natural position.
In order for him to get top-six minutes, there has been a lot of shifting around for Lafreniere, especially under Gerard Gallant. But, this was barely at left wing, and playing at right wing has not given Lafreniere the same promise. A lot of Lafreniere’s struggles come from the situation, arguably.
But, this is not the only argument. Look at Lafreniere’s postseason compared to last. He had nine points in the Rangers’ deep playoff run last year but had zero in the series against the Devils. Was this because of the situation? Probably not: the kid line, with Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko made itself famous during the 2022 postseason, and Lafreniere was the biggest struggler of the three against New Jersey.
Let’s talk about some goods. First, and the most obvious, is Lafreniere is only 21 years old, just had the best season of his career (with 39 points), and seems to be improving. Second, he is three years removed from being the undisputed best player in the 2020 NHL Draft. Third, his minutes should continue to increase should he stay in New York.
If you’re Chris Drury, are you ready to let go of this much potential? Yes, he has not lived up to the bargain and the Devils series was low, but does that move the bar?
Think Lafreniere has to get the Kakko/Chytil treatment.
Prediction: Lafreniere gets a bridge for $2.5 million AAV. It will probably be for two years, but don’t rule out the Henrik Lundqvist treatment, which is giving them a one-year deal that might allow the Rangers to do more cap fluctuating.