For the Rangers, signing 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere to his entry-level contract was “a really easy process,” according to general manager Jeff Gorton.
The team announced Monday that Lafreniere signed a maximum three-year, entry-level deal that carries a $925,000 cap hit. In line with all No. 1 picks in the NHL Draft, Lafreniere’s deal has a total value of $11.325 million with a $3.775 AAV, per CapFriendly. His base salary for all three years of the deal sits at $832,500 with a $92,000 signing bonus in each.
It was also revealed that Lafreniere will wear No. 13 with the Blueshirts.
As far as Lafreniere’s performance bonuses – which are broken into two categories: Schedule A and Schedule B – his Schedule A bonus, which may not exceed $212,500 per individual bonus and $850,000 in total, is the maximum $850,000 per season. His Schedule B bonus is the maximum $2 million per season.
The Rangers could be carrying as many as 10 players on entry-level contracts next season, presumably including Lafreniere. Considering entry-level contracts include bonus provisions, with the sum of those attainable bonuses exceeding $6,112,500 charged against the cap, the Rangers could be anywhere from $4-to-5 million over that allotment depending on the final roster.
“We worked with his agency and got things done really quick here,” Gorton said on a Zoom call. “Obviously we’re really excited about getting him signed and becoming a Ranger and everything that goes along with it. Looking forward to the first time we can actually see him on the ice.”
Gorton said Lafreniere would not be loaned to his former team, the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic, ahead of the 2020-21 NHL season — which is aiming for a Jan. 1, 2021 start. The team is hoping to bring the 19-year-old to New York “sooner rather than later,” aiming for him to arrive by early November to begin preparing for training camp.
With the uncertainty surrounding the start of next season, Gorton said Rangers brass have discussed different scenarios for Lafreniere, including the possibility of him competing in the World Junior Championship.
“Our focus is get him here, as soon as we can, and have him start training and be here and start focusing on the NHL season,” he said. “We’ll take it as it comes.”
It’s likely that we won’t see a lot more movement from the Rangers in the coming weeks, aside from the four players who filed for salary arbitration: Tony DeAngelo, Alexandar Georgiev, Brendan Lemieux and Ryan Strome.
“I think we’re going to look at everything,” Gorton said. “The cap is something we’re going to be mindful of, for sure. That’s pretty well documented, some bonuses that we have to consider. I don’t think we’re going to have a huge signing in free agency that’s going to pop up any day.”
Gorton revealed Monday that the Rangers and Jesper Fast were unable to come to an agreement on a term during negotiations, resulting in the team’s five-time Players’ Player award winner signing a three-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes as an unrestricted free agent.
“At the end of the day, I think he made a decision that was in his best interest and we felt like term was the biggest issue for us going forward with all the young players that we have in the organization and that we’ll have to take care of financially,” he said. “It was a tough decision because Jesper has been a really good Ranger, very popular with his teammates, with his coaching staff, with us and management and fans certainly. Always a difficult decision when someone like that is leaving the organization and the mark he left on it.
“We wish him nothing but the best, but at this time, how we’re going forward and what we need to do it’s just the way it worked out.”
Rangers president John Davidson said newly hired assistant coach Jacques Martin was a major advocate for the signing of defenseman Jack Johnson.
Martin, who had been with the Penguins since 2013 before joining the Rangers in August, worked with Johnson in Pittsburgh since 2018. Davidson also pointed to Johnson’s penalty killing capabilities as to why they signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million deal this past Friday.
“I’ve known Jack for a long time, I think when we looked at a lot of video regarding Jack and his last season, he did play in 67 games, he played 19 ½ minutes per game approximately,” Davidson said. “One thing that was positive, above all else, is Pittsburgh was tied for eighth in penalty killing with their percentage in the entire league. They were sixth on the road and Jack was one of their important penalty killing defenseman. We had trouble in that area last year, we were 23rd overall, we were 30th at home.”
There have been ongoing discussions regarding the possibility of sending defenseman Libor Hajek on loan to Europe, according to Gorton.
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