The Panarin-Strome-Fast line should remain when Zibanejad returns

Strome (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

Back on October 27, in a game against the Boston Bruins, Rangers center Mika Zibanejad went out with an upper-body injury. Since that night, David Quinn’s centermen have had to step up their respective games to fill the void left in Zibanejad’s absence.

Lias Andersson certainly didn’t do enough according to the coaching staff and was sent down to Hartford to improve. Filip Chytil, who was recalled from the Wolf Pack following Zibanejad’s injury, has been fantastic for the Blueshirts, recording seven points (6G, A) in the nine games. Brett Howden has just one point since the injury to Zibanejad,

That leaves the team’s current top-line center, Ryan Strome. Strome is in the final year of his two-year contract that he signed with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to the Rangers for Ryan Spooner. There’s no doubt that Jeff Gorton won this trade, as has been documented many times.

But what’s been impressive about Strome is how he has elevated his game with the team missing their star Swedish forward. Strome has recorded 10 points (4G, 6A) since being placed on a line with Artemiy Panarin and Jesper Fast on the wings. Perhaps it’s being in the middle of a line with one of the NHL’s top playmakers in Panarin, but you can tell that Strome’s been playing some of his best hockey since joining the Russian sniper on the top-line.

“I’ll be shocked if we move Strome,” Quinn said. “We’re not that far along in the process of where to put Mika because he’s probably not going to play this week, so, we have addressed it a little bit, but there are other issues we have to focus on right now.”

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But with Zibanejad, hopefully, nearing his return to the lineup, how should David Quinn shuffle his lines when his best center re-enters the team?

It’s All About Chemistry

Normally, it takes a few weeks for a trio of forwards to find that chemistry and start clicking. But the line of Panarin-Strome-Fast clicked almost right away and has been leading the Rangers for the last few weeks. The threesome has combined for 27 points in nine games, with Panarin tallying points in 11 straight games.

In the event that Quinn does keep this trio together, Zibanejad can rejoin his former linemates Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider. The trio was highly productive in the past and could help spark both Kreider and Buchnevich with the dynamic Zibanejad between them.

If It Ain’t Broke…

Though it may be a bit simple, the fact of the matter is that there’s no reason to break up the Strome line when they are playing this well. In fact, it will probably help Zibanejad get back into the flow of the game playing against the opponent’s second defensive-pair, instead of going against the opposition’s top blue-liners.

Buy Low, Sell High

When the Rangers acquired the right-handed center last season, they were hoping a move back to the east coast would help rejuvenate the former fifth-overall draft pick. Strome had been struggling in Edmonton, with just two points in his 18 games to start the 2018-19 season. Since coming over to the Rangers, Strome has registered 51 points (24G, 27A) in just 81 games, which is 15 points more than he had in 100 games with the Oilers.

Strome is in the final year of his contract, and his trade value won’t be any higher than it is now. Keeping him on a line where he can be productive will not only help the Rangers win, but it will also help Gorton acquire more assets should he decide to deal the veteran forward.

Ryan Strome is playing some of the best hockey of his life right now. He’s confident on the puck, has found his scoring touch, and is keeping the Rangers offense afloat without the team’s best center. Strome may not be with the Rangers long-term, but he’s been making the most of his opportunity. Perhaps the best way for the team to get the most out of Strome, both now and on the trading block, is to keep him right where he is.

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