The New York Rangers are set to make 2020 first-round pick Alex Lafreniere a healthy scratch in their upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a situation the Montreal Canadiens should investigate.
Lafreniere has scored five goals and 12 assists in 37 games this season, sixth in scoring among Rangers forwards and has three points in his last four games, despite averaging a little over 13 minutes of ice time over that span.
Forward Samuel Blais, who has no goals and five assists in 30 games, will take his place in the lineup.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) December 29, 2022
His development with the Rangers has been tumultuous, to say the least. For the most part, Lafreniere has been kept away from the top six, often on the fourth line and seems to have a much shorter leash than the rest of his teammates.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant has cited inconsistency as the reason for Lafreniere’s frequent demotions, and that he’s hoping it will serve as a motivating factor for the 21-year-old forward.
But despite owning a timeshare in Gallant’s doghouse, if the Rangers do decide to place their oft-maligned forward on the trade market they won’t entertain any lowball offers.
He’s still very young and has shown flashes of brilliance on occasion during his bumpy entry into the NHL.
If the Canadiens decide to explore trade options for Lafreniere, the cost will likely put a dent in their 2023 Draft plans by including a first-round pick (Florida).
There’s no doubt Lafreniere would be an instant fan favourite in Montreal, and there’s also the fact that Jeff Gorton was serving as the Rangers’ general manager when they chose the Saint-Eustache native first overall, but the Canadiens are already struggling to find ice time for their own first-overall pick, Juraj Slafkovsky.
Seeing as the team has struggled to find any success in recent weeks, another reclamation project may be too much to put on St-Louis’ shoulders, especially since he’s already trying to juggle a half-dozen veteran forwards who are also struggling to find consistency.
But regardless of the Rangers’ intent and current roster construction, at the very least, the Canadiens should investigate the price tag for acquiring Lafreniere’s services, even if it seems like a high-risk, high-reward scenario.