Ryan Strome has just two points for the New York Rangers in four games this season. The 28 year-old center missed the other four games due to COVID-19, and his first game back was a team stinker against the Flames on Monday.
Last night, in the Blueshirts 4-0 complete performance against the Blue Jackets, he potted the all important first goal. Furthermore, he helped sparked an anemic power play that went 2 for 3 for the game despite not picking up an point.
Maybe even more critical, it looked like he gave his old buddy Artemi Panarin some life. The Breadman picked up his first multi-point game of the season with three assists, the first on Strome’s opening marker.
“Yeah, I definitely like (Strome) back with (Panarin and Kakko),” Gerard Gallant said. “I think (Panarin) feels real comfortable playing with Stromer.”
It makes you wonder if the Rangers should strongly consider finding a way to bring Strome back next season and beyond.
Ryan Strome loves being a Ranger
Since joining the Rangers, Strome’s game has steadily gotten better. Last season, he notched 49 points in 56 games and picked up 59 points in 70 contests the season prior. The 28 year-old is still in his prime and his numbers should continue to climb and get closer to a point a game status.
“I love being a Ranger, I think I fit in great here,” he said during training camp about his contract status. “I love the guys on this team. I care so much about those guys. Whatever happens, happens. Everyone is really excited (about this season), and that’s my focus.”
Unfortunately, the flat cap may have already dictated Strome’s fate. With the ceiling stuck at $81.5 Million the last two seasons, and only expected to increase to $82.5 Million next season, there’s no room to give him a huge raise.
What’s he going to be worth is another question. Last year, Strome’s .875 points per game finished better than the following centers:
- Jack Eichel (.86) – $10M AAV
- Brayden Point (.86) – $6.75M
- Evgeni Malkin (.85) – $9.5M
- Mathew Barzal (.82) – $7M
- Claude Giroux (.80) – $8.275M
The former 5th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft would be well within his rights to ask for a contract in the $6.5M to $7.5M range. A significant increase to his current $4.5M deal which expires this summer.
Strome has a lot of teams interested in trading for him
Another reason the Rangers should strongly consider what to do with Strome is there’s plenty of teams ready to pounce if he’s available. I mean if that many teams want him, maybe you should too.
Over the summer three teams were rumored to have discussed a trade for Strome. The Golden Knights, Senators and Kraken all placed phone calls to Chris Drury. At the time, the Rangers were still in discussions about acquiring Jack Eichel, but that was put to bed with Mika Zibanejad’s 8 year extension at $8.5M AAV.
“It’s a business. I think everyone in here has been traded before except for a few guys,” Strome answered about the rumors. “If there’s a trade made then we’ll respond accordingly. If you worry about that, it’s just going to negatively impact you.”
Rangers have critical decision with Strome
There’s a lot of other questions that need to be answered before the Rangers even think about what to do with Strome. First and foremost, what will it cost to extend Adam Fox?
The widespread consensus is that Fox will take no less than $9.5 million. If that’s the case, how can you afford to give Strome $7M? Let’s not forget, Kaapo Kakko and Sammy Blais will need new deals too. And in the summer of 2023, Alexis Lafrenière and K’Andre Miller will be up for theirs.
Of course, the Rangers need to know if Filip Chytil is ready to assume the role as the #2 center full time. In the early going of the season, it doesn’t seem like he is. With the team thin down the middle and no legit center prospects in the organization, Strome’s value becomes even higher.
Chris Drury could possibly bring down Strome’s AAV with a 7 or 8 year deal. Security over money.
While it would be something to consider, Drury needs to draw a line in the sand when it comes to trade protection. If Strome also wants a full no move clause that has to be an instant non-starter for contract talks from the Rangers’ GM. They can’t be stuck with their top two centers being over 33 in five years.
The Rangers could also make some other cash saving moves to keep Strome (if the price is right). One is a given and that’s trading away Alexandar Georgiev’s $2.45M hit. Another would be moving Patrik Nemeth’s $2.5M after this season.
Nemeth has an 8 team modified no-trade clause, which should not make him hard to move. I also think there’s an appetite for a future pairing of Zac Jones with Nils Lundkvist among the fanbase and within the organization.
Of course, this will all fall on Strome in the end. If he demands max dollar, max term and a no-trade clause, he’ll make the decision for Drury easy. A decision that Drury believed he had figured out before Panarin’s mini slump to start the season made it not so clear.
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