Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is now the longest tenured Edmonton Oilers. General Manager Peter Chiarelli made another bold summer trade today sending Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for winger Ryan Strome. The Oilers save $3.5 million in cap space this season from this deal, and Chiarelli is hoping a change of scenery will boost Strome’s offence.
Eberle is much more of a proven scorer at this point. Strome has 45-81-126 in 245 NHL games, while Eberle has 165-217-382 in 507 games.
This trade was made knowing the Oilers needs to free up some up cap space to re-sign Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Draisaitl needs a new deal this summer, while McDavid’s new deals begins in 2018. The deal also could have been done to free up some money to sign a defenseman.
Eberle struggled offensively last season, but he still finished third on the Oilers with 51 points. He actually improved his defensive play, but his struggles in the postseason, mainly in the Anaheim series, raised the ire of many in Oilersnation. I don’t believe the GM and head coach Todd McLellan, changed their view of Eberle dramatically based on 13 playoff games.
The reality is the Oilers offence will be led by McDavid and Draisaitl for the next few seasons. The rest will be complementary offense, which is very important and Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins need to produce, while one or two of Strome, Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepshev need to become a consistent 40-50 point player. Ideally you’d like one of them to emerge as a regular 50-point guy, but to start I’d look at a realistic 40+ points.
Strome’s best year was his second pro season when he tallied 17-33-50 in 81 games in 2014/2015. He played 1247 minutes, split between 1025 at EV, 172 on the PP and 50 on the PK.
He scored 41 of his 50 points at EV. He had 1-7-8 playing mainly on the second PP unit.
He played 939 minutes at 5×5 and his most common forward linemates were Anders Lee (463), Brock Nelson (376), Frans Nielson (311), Nikolai Kulemin (128), Mikhail Grabovski (127) and John Tavares (124). His production with Tavares wasn’t much better per minute than it was with Lee and Nelson. It was a bit higher, but Strome had success playing with a variety of players. He had a very good CF of 53.3% and he finished the season +23. I don’t love that +/-, but when he was on the ice the Islanders were out shooting and outscoring the opposition by a good margin.
It is important to note he didn’t face top pairing defenders very much, Tavares took the toughest matchups, and I mention that because in Edmonton the first line RW spot is now wide open. Todd McLellan could choose to play Draisaitl with McDavid, but long-term the plan is to have them as a dangerous one-two punch down the middle, so eventually, the Oilers will need two solid right wingers.
Strome turns 24 on July 11th. He has more experience than Puljujarvi, Slepyshev or Caggiula, if they try him on RW, and Strome will likely be given numerous chances to prove himself on the right side of either McDavid or Draisaitl. He couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. It is up to him to take advantage of it.
CAN STROME FINISH?
Eberle had some weaknesses to his game, most NHL players do, but he was an excellent goal scorer. Despite what some considered a “down year” he still had 20 goals and 51 points. He had the lowest SH% of his career, 9.8, and I have no doubt he can bounce back and score 25 goals for the Islanders.
When looking at this trade we have to consider salary cap. It is a factor, whether we like it or not, and with huge deals coming for Draisaitl and McDavid, most people expected the Oilers would have to move Eberle for a less proven scorer.
Eberle has a career 13.4SH%, while Strome is at 8.8%. Strome’s best offensive came when he had his highest shot total, which isn’t a coincidence in my eyes. Strome had 179 shots on goal in 2014/2015 q when he scored 17 goals and 50 points. He was around the puck more.
This past season Strome had 13-17-30 in 69 games, and he did have his highest SH% of his career at 11.9, but he only had 114 shots. He played 1008 minutes split between 822 at EV, 183 on the PP and two minutes on the PK. He averaged 14:36/game. He switched between the second and third lines. Of his 794 EV minutes he played the most with Nelson, 343, then Anthony Beauvillier (245), Shane Prince (216), Andrew Ladd (181), Nikolai Kulemin (107) and Jason Chimera (103). He had a gaudy 45.4 CF%.
His role, or should I say opportunity out of training camp, will likely change in Edmonton, but he will need to earn it. He should be elated at the opportunity in front of him in Edmonton, but so far in his career, he has yet to prove he can be a finisher. Playing with skilled players helps, but to be successful he needs to show he can think the game similar to Draisaitl and McDavid and then prove he has the skill to finish off plays. The latter is much more difficult than people think.
I’ve read many evaluations of Eberle’s game, and much of them focused on what he didn’t do well and actually undervalued what he did do well, which was score goals. His 165 goals are the 24th most in the entire NHL since he debuted in 2010/2011. I don’t expect Strome to score that often, and frankly, the Oilers won’t need him to because they have Draisaitl and McDavid, but Chiarelli and Strome are hoping a change of scenery will jump-start Strome’s career.
In junior over three years with Niagara of the OHL, Strome produced 97-171-268 in 164 games. He’s never been a dominant goal scorer, so it would be unrealistic to expect him to become one with the Oilers, but he’s also never played regularly with players as skilled as McDavid and Draisaitl.
If Strome can become a regular 20-goal scorer the Oilers would be thrilled, but he’s only scored 20 goals in his past 140 games over the past two seasons.
I’d be surprised if he produced as much as Eberle had, but due to his salary he doesn’t need to right away.
This trade was a mix of freeing up cap space and hoping a change of scenery will allow Strome to evolve offensively.
- Strome is in Chicago to watch his younger brother Matthew get drafted. Ryan was drafted 5th overall in 2011, brother Dylan was taken 3rd overall in 2015 and Matt is rated to go late in the first or in the second round depending on who you read.
- There is a lot of chatter the Oilers are close to re-signing Kris Russell. Let’s say they sign Russell to a $4 million cap hit. He and Strome would combine for $6.5 million next season, compared to Eberle’s $6 million. This is likely part of Chiarelli’s assessment when making this move. Whether it is Russell or another D-man, he made this move to free up space to sign a D-man. Of course, if Strome has a big year then his cap hit will go up from $2.5 million.
- What do Oilers fans think of Russell+Strome for Eberle?
- This trade is more than just about the players. Today, there is no doubt Eberle is more proven and productive. Salary cap played a major role and Chiarelli needs to ensure he uses the cap space wisely.
- Some have asked if Strome can play centre. He has, but not much since his rookie season. His first year he played 37 NHL game and took 374 faceoffs. The next year he took 319 draws in 81 games, then only 95 faceoffs in 71 games in 2016 and this past year in 69 games he took 344 faceoffs. His career average in faceoffs is 44.1%. He is a natural centre prior to coming to the NHL, but in the NHL he hasn’t played down the middle regularly.
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