I listed my top-25 off-season questions
earlier in the week. Today, I start to provide my answers but look forward to yours as well. Kicking off the series of columns will be my first question: "Should Ryan Strome be brought back and if so, what kind of deal? (new - will getting Lafreniere result in New York moving a winger to get a 2c, making Strome expendable)."
Part of this question was tackled way back during the pandemic when I wrote an analysis of each player, bridging off Larry Brooks' columns of the same. For Strome, the blog was titled Ryan Strome: was his production solely a by-product of playing with Panarin.
Included within the blog was me asking: should Strome receive: a one year deal, a long-term contract, for how long and what AAV, or be traded this off-season? The responses varied and it will be interesting to see if people changed their minds following the play in round
Here is a portion of what Brooks wrote in his column:
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.
This is what i wrote at the time:
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.
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 amenable 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.
All what I wrote then in March applies now in August. I read all the comments provided then and to the past blog on Strome. First, he is a product of playing with Panarin. As mentioned, on Natural Stat Trick, you can see the impact of players together and apart. When examining Strome with and without Panarin, the difference, as expected, is stark. Great players help make players better, which is the case here, but that isn't always the case and not always to the extent as we saw in the Strome-Panarin connection.
Seeing Strome with much better numbers with Panarin as compared to without shouldn't be viewed as surprising in the slightest. In addition, I don't view it as a major detriment to Strome's value, yes, it impacts what he should be worth, especially if you believe that anyone can be plugged and played next to Panarin, which may not be the case. If you do, then that changes how Strome is viewed and should they pursue bringing him back and for how long.
David Shapiro of Blueseat Blogs
did a great job breaking down Strome's potential contract in his blog
. In it, he uses a tweet from Evolving Wild, whose model, as seen by Sean Tierney's tweet, was pretty darn accurate last season. In it, they project salaries from one year as an RFA to a long-term deal.
Strome is an RFA with arbitration rights. New York has to offer him at least 10% above his current contract, which will be a no-brainer. The question becomes how far beyond that and do the Rangers go one year or two, if a long-term deal is not offered.
This is what Evolving Wild predicted:
1 year, $4.9 million (3% chance of happening)
Included within the evaluation is several components:
2 years, $5.08 million (4% chance of happening)
3 years, $6 million (9%)
4 years, $5.8 million (8%)
5 years, $6 million (25%)
6 years, $6.8 million (17%)
7 years, $6.58 million (3%)
8 years, $7.6 million (31%)
1) Has Strome reached his peak? If not, when will that peak be and for how long will that last?
2) Can he improve on faceoffs or is what we have seen to date his ceiling between the dots?
3) Can New York afford Strome's potential contract demands given their current cap situation?
4) Is Strome the prototypical #2 center? If no, does New York have the assets and desire to bring in someone for that role immediately?
5) Do the Blueshirts have anyone within the organization that can fill the 2c role either immediately (Filip Chytil or Brett Howden) or long-term (Karl Henriksson)?
also wrote about Strome's future contract cost today. Clearly, it's a major focus and major concern for the team. In the column, Mike Murphy adds in some comparable recent contracts, which need to be taken into consideration as well.
Deals to keep in mind when contemplating Strome’s next payday are Charlie Coyle’s $5.25 million AAV over six years with the Bruins and Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s six-year deal worth $5 million per with the Islanders. Both, though, are more middle-six centers than ‘1B’s. Of course, there’s also Kevin Hayes’ seven-year deal that pays him just over $7.1 million with the Flyers and the Islanders’ Brock Nelson’s $6 mill AAV over six to consider when looking at Strome.
All of these deals were signed after Nelson’s pact with the Islanders on May 23, 2019, which makes them contracts that Strome’s agent and the Rangers will have in mind when they are negotiating.
Where do we then stand? I do believe in Strome, but also believe his flaws have to be evaluated. A two-year deal would make the most sense for him, since that contract would allow Strome to become a UFA after that deal expires. For New York, though, they may want more security, meaning one year, knowing they would have Strome for one more as an RFA or the ability to trade him, or three years, locking up one year of him as a UFA.
The Hayes contract may be what Strome wants, but while Strome is better than Hayes offensively, he is not close to him as a shut-down center or between the dots. Nelson is a good comp, as he is the Isles' 2c. and a contract at that amount might be viewed as reasonable given the flat cap. Coyle would be the ideal for the Rangers, but I don't think that dollar figure is what Strome will want.
I think a one-year deal would be in the $5 mil range. Two-years, likely closer to $5,5 or $5.75 and three years, $6 mil, as speculated by Evolving Wild. New York might take the risk of a one-year deal, cognizant - barring a buyout - Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal's and Brendan Smith's $22 million comes off the books. A one-year deal might allow enough room to bring back Anthony DeAngelo for a similar term coupled with the need to pay Alexandar Georgiev and Brendan Lemiuex while also deciding if they have room for Jesper Fast. In two years, Mika Zibanejad will be up for a new deal and the Rangers clearly need to budget appropriately to have enough cap room to ink him long-term, based on his progression to date and expected continued rise.
What say you?