Thoughts on the Ryan Strome contract

Yesterday the NY Rangers avoided arbitration with one of their two remaining RFAs (since this post has been written, the second was signed as well). The contract details for Ryan Strome are a $4.5 million cap hit, with $4 million in year one and $5 million in year two. The deal was no surprise at this point, as it looked like the trade rumors had come and gone. The deal is a good cap hit for the Rangers, and is a 50% raise for Strome. As per usual, I have thoughts.

1. It is abundantly clear that the Rangers do not think Strome is a long-term answer at center. If the trade confirmation didn’t seal the deal for you, then the two-year deal did. It is unlikely Strome plays more than two more years in New York. In fact, there is smart money on the Rangers parting ways with Strome before the contract is up.

2. The money works for the Rangers. It’s below that $4.54 million arbitration walk away point, albeit barely. It isn’t cap killing either. The Rangers seem to be pushing Filip Chytil as the 2C, so Strome would slot in as an expensive 3C, but an insurance policy against Chytil as well. With the limited options they had, this was the smart play.

3. Strome’s second year makes him a candidate for the expansion draft. It’s still unclear who the Rangers will protect at forward, but Strome’s name is now in the mix of who they can leave unprotected. Before this deal, it looked like one of Brett Howden or Libor Hajek would be taken, now it isn’t so certain.

4. Strome does add much needed depth to the center position. It’s not great, with both he and Chytil as question marks, but the Rangers have strong wingers that should at least help keep Strome afloat. Remember, it was Artemi Panarin who kept Strome afloat last season. He could, in theory, do the same with Chytil, who is much stronger away from the puck than Strome. That would leave Strome to play with Alexis Lafreniere.

5. The best case scenario here is that Strome repeats his performance and winds up as trade bait. Remember, the Rangers still don’t think he’s part of the long term future. Another big point year –and poor numbers away from the puck– would probably increase his value to a playoff team needing center depth.

6. The devil is in the details with the Ryan Strome contract. That last year at $5 million may not be palatable for teams if the pandemic issues are still unresolved.