Strome Finds His Stride
On February 8, 2018, Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton penned a letter to New York Rangers fans. Little did they know, their words would send the fan base into a “rebuild” frenzy, ready to trade for any draft pick and young prospect on the market.
At the age of 26, many fans have convinced themselves that Rangers forward, and a former fifth overall draft pick, Ryan Strome has no withstanding future as a member of the Blueshirts. But for those fans who can’t seem to view Strome’s stellar start to the season as anything more than an increase in trade value at the deadline, here’s my advice to you: swallow your pride, put down the copy of the letter you printed out and hung up on your wall, and hop on the Strome train, because you’re missing a fun ride.
The same goes for any player whose free agency is approaching, which is after this season when Strome becomes an RFA. When a pending free-agent’s point production increases, so does his trade value; however, his actual value lies as a longstanding Ranger, not on the trade market. Coming off of a rather solid 35-point season, Strome has proven in his first fifteen games of the season, that his ceiling is much higher than some may have anticipated. He is currently a point per game player, tallying five goals and 11 assists. Though his current 82-point pace is most unlikely, it would not be out of the question for him to put up 55 to 60 points this season, putting him at the Stepan/Zuccarello/Brassard level. Why trade such a player entering his prime for a draft pick that at best could produce a 35 to 40 point third liner in the future?
When Mika Zibanejad was sidelined with an injury against the Bruins on October 27th, Strome moved up to the first line with Panarin and Fast on his wings. Since then, a relentless duo has emerged, as Panarin and Strome have found an undeniable rhythm, combining for 23 points in the last eight games. After Wednesday’s victory over Detroit, Panarin spoke about the growing comfortability between him and Strome, which has translated well on the ice. While acknowledging that Panarin regularly elevates the production of his linemates, Strome has been consistent throughout the young season with a variety of other players.
So what does this mean for Strome once Zibanejad returns? In this writer’s opinion, Strome, whose versatility is another asset to his game, should slide to the first-line wing, creating a Panarin-Zibanejad-Strome top line for the Blueshirts. Quinn can always make moves down the road, but Strome has earned a spot on the first line with his play this season, and the Rangers should ride his chemistry with Panarin for as long as they can. And as for Strome’s future as a New York Ranger? I, for one, would love to see him stay.