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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

RFA Profile: Ryan Strome gave the Oilers what they should have expected

Ryan Strome was thrown into an unenviable situation this year. After back-to-back disappointing, sub 40-point seasons with the New York Islanders, Strome was sent to Edmonton in a deal for Jordan Eberle.

The trade was one-for-one. No matter what, whether it was fair or not, Strome was forever going to be linked to the player he was swapped for. Strome’s expectation pivoted from being a fifth overall pick of the Islanders to being the guy we got for Eberle.

I don’t fault Strome for being the return in the Eberle trade. It’s the same thing with Adam Larsson. For the rest of his career, he’s going to be the guy the Oilers got for Taylor Hall. It’s a lofty comparison and it’s one that isn’t favourable to the rugged, shutdown defender. It’s the same deal for Strome, who, despite being selected fifth overall in the 2011 draft, isn’t going be a premier NHL talent at this point.

Still, in a vacuum, Strome provided the Oilers pretty much what they realistically should have expected from him. I mean, there were reports that the Oilers were disappointed with Strome in that they were expected to get more out of him. Given his results with the Islanders the past couple seasons, I’m not sure what the Oilers were expected or why they were disappointing, because Strome performed just as he had with the Islanders.

NYI 2015-16: 71 games, 8 goals, 20 assists, 50.6 CF%, +1.8 CF% rel

NYI 2016-17: 69 games, 13 goals, 17 assists, 45.9 CF%, -2.1 CF% rel

EDM 2017-18: 82 games, 13 goals, 21 assists, 50.8 CF%, -0.1 CF% rel

Strome’s point-per-game in all situations in the past three seasons have been 0.39, 0.43, and 0.41 respectively. In 2014-15, Strome had what appeared to be a breakout season in which he recorded 50 points in 81 games, but given the two follow-up seasons, it’s pretty obvious that was the exception rather than the rule. With that considered, the Oilers got the player in 2017-18 they should have been expecting. If the Oilers expected more from Strome, that’s on them. That’s on their professional scouts who watched him, it’s on Peter Chiarelli for targeting him in a one-for-one deal for Eberle.

If you can convince yourself to not attach him to Eberle, it becomes a lot easier to accept Strome for what he is. He’s a solid, two-way player who can play in a variety of situations. He can centre your third line and be responsible, he can produce some offence in a top-six role, he can play both centre and wing, and he can be useful on the power play and penalty kill. He isn’t spectacular, but he’s a versatile depth player with upside, and there’s certainly value to that.

Now that Strome is settled in Edmonton and he’s found his role in the lineup, he figures he can start to be a more effective player.

“You never really think it’s [a trade] that big a deal until you go through it,” he said in an interview with Rob Tychkowski. “Todd (McLellan) mixes up the lines here, which is a good thing, but at the same time, if the team is struggling and there are new guys, it’s tough to get into a little bit of a rhythm… I feel like now I have a valued role on the team. More than any season in the NHL, I’ve really got to play my true position for the last half of the year here, taken a step up in the leadership role on the penalty kill, I can chip in on the power play here and there. I’ve started to carve out a little niche here.”

What now? Strome is a restricted free agent this summer. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021. That means the Oilers have three more seasons of control of Strome.

After his entry-level deal expired with the Islanders in 2016, Strome inked a two-year deal worth $2.5 million annually. If the Oilers qualify Strome, which they obviously will, he’ll receive at minimum the $3 million he was earning last year, putting him up at that rate or more. That’s a bit steep, so perhaps the Oilers could get Strome at a lower cap hit if they offer more years of security.

Strome, over the past three seasons, has posted 0.41 points-per-game. Players in a similar production bracket who have received contracts recently would be Andrew Cogliano (0.42 points-per-game) who got $3.25 million over three years, Nick Bonino (0.43 points-per-game) who got $4.1 million over four years, and Lars Eller (0.37 points-per-game) who got $3.5 million over five years.

There’s definitely value in Strome as a player on a multi-year deal around that $3 million mark. They key now is forgetting about who he was traded for, letting him exist in his niche, and getting him signed to a good, value contract.

  • OriginalPouzar

    One quick correction – Strome only needs to be qualified at 100%, not 110% so, his QO would be for $3M, not $3.3M.

    Yes, his offense was in line with what should have been expected. At the same time, without digging in to the numbers on naturalstat, I would posit that Strome spent the vast majority of his time on a 3rd line of a team that didn’t have much offensive depth. He rarely played in the top 6 (i.e. rarely played with McDavid or Drai) and was often saddled with the likes of Jokinen, Caggulia, Aberg, a struggling Lucic, etc. on his wing.

    I think he has more offence to give, he is actually a creative player in the offensive zone.

    With that said, being able to play a solid 3C role (and step up to the middle 6 if necessary), while creating some offence and, importantly, providing some solid penalty killing – that’s an important role.

    A one year, $3M contract (i.e. he accepts a QO) would be fine but I would prefer a couple years of term for a slightly smaller cap hit – 2 years at $2.5M or $2.75M.

    I would actually prefer 3 years but that would take him to UFA status so isn’t really an option.

  • camdog

    I don’t know why everybody wants Strome to take a discount to play here? He’s a 3 million dollar guy in an 80 million salary cap world. Now’s The time to sign him to a 5 year contract at that dollar figure, rather than a bridge contract. If Seattle get’s their team, the cap will be at 85 million and if he isn’t plucked off the roster, he’ll be getting even more salary in 2 years. Team needs cost certainty not more Jeff Petry bridge contracts. If the Oilers don’t know what they have in Strome, they should trade him.

    The GM would have Oiler fans believe that Strome under performed this season, that simply is not true. The problem is the GM set unrealistic goals for Strome and then the coach was forced to play him in situations that did not fit for Strome. Strome didn’t work on the wing with Tavares, there was no reason to believe he’d work on the wing here. I believe Strome can produce more, playing third line centre with some powerplay time.

    • Kepler62c

      Fully agree, they should lock him up. He’s essentially an NHL veteran at this point and is perfectly slotted for 3C – something the Oilers have been lacking for a long, long time (Roy, Arcobello, Lander, Miller, etc.).

      Ignore who he was traded for, sign him for what he is, and they’ll be happy with the value they get.

    • crabman

      In theory a 5×$3M could work out great for the team but would that work for Strome? As you mentioned the cap will likely have a good increase with Seattle joining the league and he would be giving up 2 UFA years. The comparables in the article all made between $3.25-$4.1M because they were UFAs and this was at a lower salary cap. A 5×$3M would be selling himself short unless Chiarelli can sell him on job security and a guaranteed paycheck I can’t see Strome going for that contract.

  • CMG30

    Sigh. Another trade that exposes multiple areas of organizational incompetence. Scouting, player evauation, projecting players, understanding value, realizing who your own players are, unrealistic expectations, cap management… take your pick.

    I guess there is no point to continue to call for the GM to be fired since apparently this is all part of the Bobbies plan.

  • Rama Lama

    So let me get this right………we traded a first line winger for a third line centre?

    Brilliant! It’s no wonder I don’t understand how and why the Oilers make these trades……..I must attend Harvard like PC did!!

    • gordo

      Eberle played his way out of town in those 13 post season games the oilers played in 12 years. current Katz Regime manager chiarelli got snowed again by trader garth

      • LAKID

        Chia had to get $6 Million shipped out because he is paying Lucic $6 Million and Russel $4 Million and that allowed him to overpay Drai $1.5 Million. Strome should be offered his $3 Million or less on a bridge deal.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    How many players on the roster “underachieved” this year? Maybe they never underachieved but actually showed their true selves…Drake, Benning, Strome, Looch, Kass, Talbot, Larsson, Klef, Jesse. Even Drai to some extent.

    Did I miss anyone?

  • tkfisher

    I think one of the big frustrations, is Eberle was not considered “gritty” enough to win or play playoff hockey here. Eberle registered 46 hits this year and Strome clocked in with 55 on the season. I really don’t see him as that much “grittier” of a player. There’s obviously a downgrade in skill and offense from Strome to Eberle, but was there an actual upgrade in physicality, grit, toughness, etc. In my opinion Eberle actually had something he was considered above average in (goal scoring), and i’m still searching for that thing Strome brings to the table that would be considered “above average” by NHL standards. He’s a pretty vanilla player in every way based on what I’ve seen. I don’t blame Strome for the trade, but it really makes me questions our pro scouts and player evaluation process.

  • Svart kaffe

    Considering quite a few people wanted to leave Eberle unprotected in the expansion draft, and even more just wanted him gone for whatever was offered we should be happy about the return. Strome is a solid 3C who is trusted in 3-on-3, on the PK and on the PP. He can also move up the lineup and to the wing occasionally in case of injuries.

    Sign him to 4-5 years at less than 3,5 mil please. If it doesn’t work out it should be tradable.

    • crabman

      People who wanted him gone for nothing should be happy we got a 3c for him. The rest of us should be upset that it was a 1 for 1 trade. The team needs prospects and a pick or prospect in the deal would have helped balance the trade.
      That said Strome is an acceptable 3c and will continue to play that role going forward and I agree with the author that judging him based on that and not who he was traded for he did fine.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I was (am) a big Eberle fan and never wanted to trade him (and certainly didn’t want to leave him exposed in the expansion draft – that, in my opinion, is out of the realm of reasonableness).

    Now, one for one, is Strome worth Eberle in a trade? Of course not, offence is the primary driver of value in the NHL.

    With that said, there is more to trading in the cap world than player for player value. Look at it as Strome at a $3M cap hit vs. Eberle at a $6M cap hit and, given the Oilers huge cap issues going forward, the trade makes more sense and is more digestable.

    No Strome isn’t “gritty” or “physical” as mentioned above but he is much more versatile than Eberle. He can play center or wing, he has a stronger game on the boards in battles, he has a stronger 200 foot game and, since January, he’s shown proficiency on the PP.

    Yes, we could use Eberle and his scoring, however, I’m not so sure, given the above, if Strome at $3M isn’t better than Eberle at $6M in our cap structure.

    • RJ

      Managing the cap is an issue, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Strome had to be the target. I’m not a big Eberle fan, but I’m not a fan of the shedding of talent in every major trade.

  • Cowboy Bill

    With all this talk about Eberle . The Isles didn’t qualify for the post season . And he wasn’t and isn’t a top line winger . Couldn’t play with Tavares .
    Strome might not score as often as Eberle . But can play 3c , fill in as a winger in the top six and work on both special teams . That’s more than what Eberle does for the Isles , for half the cost .

  • What-a-Mike

    I just gotta say that I am one who has no such problems with Strome or Larsson being the players taken in the trades (Larsson for Hall), (Strome for Eberle). Each player has skills good for Oiler team needs. The problem I have with these trades is that Chia should have gotten more with say at least a 2nd rounder with Larsson for Hall, and say a decent prospect or 3rd rounder with Strome. Other than saying this, the deals are done and its seriously time to move on. Now the primary focus should be on making the Oilers much better and stronger a team for next season…. starting with about 4 new players ( a puck moving two way D, two speedy skilled wingers, a good winnable type back up goalie), and both special team units.

  • Bills Bills

    Stop with the BS rumors that the hack Matt is spreading. They are unfounded rumors from a guy who is lucky to get access to a bathroom in Rogers Place, never mind a dressing room or anything close to management level access. The Oilers expected: a solid, two-way player who can play in a variety of situations. He can centre your third line and be responsible, he can produce some offence in a top-six role, he can play both centre and wing, and he can be useful on the power play and penalty kill. He isn’t spectacular, but he’s a versatile depth player with upside.

    So about everything Eberle was not and what the Oilers needed.

    Those were your comments Cam. Did they hope to get more points out of him? I bet they would have loved that. But out of all the things that went wrong this year, Strome was not one of them. So get off the who was traded for who. Adam Larsson is the best right handed defenceman on the team. That’s how I see him. Strome is the teams 3rd line center.

  • The Swarm

    Eberle averaged -13 over his last 3 seasons with Oilers, two of which he played with McDavid. Strome was -3 last year playing with plumbers for less than half the price.

    • OilerForLife

      In addition, if Eberle had been just a bit better in the playoffs, the Oilers would have beaten the Ducks.The Oilers needed to create cap space to fend off offer sheets on Draisaitl. Time was of the essence, and at the time, the best offer was Strome, and Eberle didn’t increase his value during the playoffs. They could have held on longer in negotiations, but Draisaitl may have been the price. People tend to forget what else was going on during a trade.

      • Big Nuggets

        nobody was offersheeting Draisaitl and if they wanted to for more than what we paid we should have let him walk and collect first round picks for the next few seasons.

  • Arfguy

    I have zero issues with Ryan Strome. In fairness, I expected more from him than what he was capable of, but I figure I made the same mistake a lot of other people did. While it would have been nice to see him put up really strong numbers, I think he performed up to his standards. There were a number of times that he should have sunk a goal on some really good chances, but whatever.

    I do think paying him anything more than $2.75 million AAV for the next 3 years would be too much. He is a good 3rd line centre, but one of the reasons he was brought in initially (I have to believe) was due to his contract. Giving him more money than $2.75 million AAV seems to defeat the point of getting Strome in the first place.

  • LoyalToOil

    Wow reading these comments make me scratch my head. Am I the only one who saw a player playing top line power play minutes for the majority of the season with 12 goals?? Take out that 5 goals in 5 game stretch and he had 7 goals in 77 games, imo it’s unacceptable. For the 3m+ price tag oilers could do better. I would look to trade him for a lick or just let him walk