Yesterday Larry Brooks made a mention that Ryan Strome is the lone “key” restricted free agent that has not received a qualifying offer. This struck me as a little odd, since Strome’s qualifying offer was $3.2 million on a one year deal. Brooks’ explanation makes technical sense, but it still was a bit off for me. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. The good news here is that the Rangers are not being distracted by Strome’s great season. There were rumblings that the Rangers weren’t committed to Strome as a 2C of the future, and this really solidifies that rumor. The Rangers don’t want to commit that kind of money to a question mark, and that’s the right approach.
2. Is it possible Strome finally figured it out? Possibly. But the underlying numbers don’t show that, and neither does his prior history. If it so happens Strome figured it out and excels elsewhere, so be it. The Rangers are playing it right. If he broke out, at 26, with Artemi Panarin driving everything, and with poor underlying numbers, then he’s the exception to the rule. Playing the odds with limited cap space is the right move.
3. Points 1 and 2 have to do with long term deals. The question for me is the short term deal. Giving Ryan Strome a qualifying offer means he’s going to arbitration. The cutoff, per Brooks, for the Rangers to walk away from an arbitration ruling is $4.54 million on a one year deal. Evolving-Hockey has a one-year projection at $4.7 million. Maybe the Rangers are afraid it comes in at $4.5 million, and they can’t walk away? In a vacuum, Strome on a one-year deal like that is fine.
4. However that is in a vacuum. The Rangers have plans, and I’m guessing part of those plans include adding salary via trade. The draft and free agency are this week, so we will get some idea of what those plans are pretty soon. My guess is the Rangers will have something lined up before the 5pm deadline
5. Another aspect to consider is ELC performance bonuses. The Rangers will have four players who could trigger some bonuses. To prevent a huge chunk of carry over, it’s smart for the Rangers to have a buffer here. They won’t spend to the cap for this reason. I’d venture a guess that they will leave $5-$7 million available for bonuses.
6. The fun part here is that Strome might actually walk for nothing. If the Rangers don’t give him a QO, he’s a free agent. If the Rangers give him a QO and walk away from arbitration, he also will leave for nothing. The last time that happened was with Nik Zherdev.
7. This is going to be a fun week. Buckle up.