Larry Brooks is providing player evaluations daily in the NY Post, an exercise that began the past Monday. The order is by last name, and while he is not giving a grade, he is giving a sort of high-level assessment. Since it's my hope that we will have hockey, I thought it might be interesting to take one or a few aspects of his daily column along with his closure - the latter in italics - and provide my view, then receive yours in the comments. I will try and do this daily, and have covered Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo, Jesper Fast, Adam Fox, Alexandar Georgiev, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider, Brendan Lemieux, Ryan Lindgren, Henrik Lundqvist, Greg McKegg, Artemi Panarin, Igor Shesterkin, Brendan Smith and Marc Staal. This column it's Ryan Strome.
This is where you must begin with a Ryan Strome overview: He was acquired from Edmonton on Nov. 16, 2018, in a one-for-one trade for Ryan Spooner.
It was a bait-and-switch deal, that’s what it pretty much turned out to be, when general manager Jeff Gorton was more than able to make amends for perhaps the most incomprehensible decision of his tenure in granting Spooner a two-year, $8 million contract following the 2017-18 season instead of not qualifying the barely interested forward.
Strome has recorded 92 points (36-56) in 133 games with the Blueshirts while emerging this season as Artemi Panarin’s pivot-in-crime. Spooner, meanwhile, well, he put up three points (2-1) in 25 games for the Oilers before being sent to the Canucks, where he registered four points (0-4) in 11 games at the end of 2018-19. This year, Spooner was in the KHL, playing for Dinamo Minsk, where well-placed sources report that he met Rochelle, Rochelle after her long journey from Milan.
On Broadway, Panarin and Strome fit the way Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois fit in Columbus and Panarin and Artem Anisimov fit in Chicago. That is not to Strome’s detriment, even as the argument against granting the pending restricted free agent an expensive long-term deal tends to focus on the fact that the centerman’s numbers (18-41-59) were inflated because of the identity of the hockey superhero on his left. Well, thank you for the news flash.
Fact is, not everyone has it in his game, or even his makeup, to complement a star, especially one as savvy as Panarin. Strome has proven that he can think the game with Panarin. Not everyone can. He has proven that he is not intimidated by playing with No. 10.
The formation of such a strong partnership allowed David Quinn to split Panarin and Mika Zibanejad so that the Rangers could come at you with two formidable units rather than one power line. That became their team strength.
There are things for Strome, who turns 27 in July, to clean up. There are a few too many shifts where he takes what were described as “walkabouts” when applied to the great Australian tennis champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley. His penchant for taking careless penalties got him benched a few times, even as late as March 1 against the Flyers. His 17 minors at five-on-five were tied for the fifth-most among NHL forwards (per Naturalstattrick.com). What’s worse is that No. 16 somehow managed to draw only three penalties, himself.
The Rangers are going to have to balance Strome’s strengths and weaknesses against the club’s situation in the middle when approaching his restricted free agency this summer. Unless management acquires a no-questions-asked top-six center in a trade in which Tony DeAngelo would presumably be the prime piece going the other way, I’d expect the Blueshirts to keep Strome on a one-year deal, preferably without having to go through an unhelpful arbitration hearing.
Yes, that would put Strome in the position of being one year away from unrestricted free agency, but it would maintain the Panarin equation. The Russian Rockette was on for 700:48 of the Canadian’s 947:22 at full strength, or 74 percent of the time. The pair produced positive possession and shot-share numbers while posting a goals-for percentage of 62.75 percent, on for 48 Rangers goals and 25 for the opposition.
It would give management more time in which to assess Strome’s value and to ruminate over the wisdom of signing him to a long-term deal. In the alternative, he would likely become a prime rental property heading into next year’s deadline.
If you asked this blog in January if Strome should be re-signed, the prevailing view was likely yes. Fast forward six weeks or so and the answer quite probably would have shifted for many. Now, I would say the responses are closer to 50-50 and leaning towards no seeing how he finished the season.
Strome is viewed by many as a product of skating with Panarin. As Brooks noted, not everywhere can play with an elite winger. Strome did have 18 goals and 15 assists in 63 games as a Ranger last season. His goal production remained the same this year, which isn't really a surprise, as he had an unsustainable 22.5% shooting percentage in 2018-19, and a more reasonable 11.5% this year. But the big difference is he has 41 helpers this year, largely a result of playing with Panarin.
Some of those helpers can be discounted due to Panarin's elite skills and ability to turn nothing into something. Even if removing that number of assists, Strome is still having a fine year. He needs to fix the deficiencies noted in italics
above but the possession he put up with Panarin shouldn't be ignored.
Strome will be looking for a long-term deal, so the one-year deal postulated by Brooks may not be feasible. Assuming Strome was amendable to that kind of deal, which New York could try and force, since he is only an RFA, the Rangers would be playing with fire, as Strome would then be a year from unrestricted free agency and almost certainly will look to play the market.
A good 2020-21 campaign would result in Strome looking for an even larger AAV to remain or paving the way for his ouster. If Filip Chytil takes that next step forward, Strome leaving would be less of an impact. If not and if Strome has a similar campaign, the Rangers will be between a rock and hard place.
What do you think?
- one year deal?
- long-term contract, for how long and what AAV?
- trade him this off-season?
RIP Anthony Causi:
As a reminder, I will be out of pocket starting Tuesday through Thursday night. I am going to try and get up one blog tomorrow before the holiday starts and then submit one more to an Admin to post Wednesday night or Thursday. I don't expect to miss much given the current situation, but if anything does, will cover when i return.