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.