Don’t be so sure about a Ryan Strome trade at the deadline

As the trade deadline approaches and the Rangers fall further out of contention, the desire to sell off assets becomes larger. Ten days ago, we discussed the different paths the Rangers could take at the deadline, and it looks like selling is becoming the most likely scenario. A popular name to trade at the deadline is Ryan Strome, but don’t be so shocked if the Rangers hold on to him through the trade deadline.

Center Depth Is Still A Problem

The immediate impact of trading Ryan Strome is going to be felt up and down the lineup. He has been their best center this season, and it’s not even close. While Mika Zibanejad would retain his 1C role and Filip Chytil would move seamlessly into 2C, the question become the bottom-six centers.

Trading Strome without getting a center back means Brett Howden gets more ice time as the 3C. Kevin Rooney would be slotted into the 4C role. The Rangers could certainly do worse than Rooney as the 4C, but do we really need more minutes for Howden? I think we’ve established he’s not good at this point.

Morgan Barron is a popular option, but he’s been playing wing in Hartford. That leads me to believe the club believes he’s a winger at the NHL level, not a center.

If the Rangers trade Strome, then they will need a secondary trade to bring back a center, at least in the short term. Certainly doable. That does beg the question: Will the return from Strome be worth it to gut the center depth even more?

Expansion Draft Considerations

Another interesting aspect of this year’s team is the impact it will have on the expansion draft. Any team acquiring Strome would need to meet two requirements:

  1. Be able to protect/want to protect Strome at the expansion draft.
  2. If no to #1, trade someone to open up a slot to protect Strome, and/or have a plan with Seattle.

This limits the pool of teams even more. For example, a lot of people will look at Colorado as a realistic spot for Strome. And they are correct. This is certainly a possibility, and a strong one at that. However for that to happen, the Avs would need to either find a taker for one of Valeri Nichuskin, Tyson Jost, JT Compher, or Joonas Donskoi to open up that protection spot. If not, then they need to work with Seattle to take a pick in exchange for “future considerations.”

Keep in mind that the Rangers don’t have this problem with Strome. They have more than enough protection spots to keep him without sacrificing anyone of value.

COVID and Cap Considerations

COVID has impacted every team this season. Given the current restrictions, I think it’s safe to assume no team in the North Division will trade with the other three divisions. There’s that ten day quarantine period that I am assuming these teams don’t want to deal with.

But COVID has also impacted the ability to pay salaries. This limits the pool of potential suitors even more. Strome is due $5 million next year, and owners will need to be willing to take on that salary. It seems like a small ask, but there are a lot of struggling teams right now. The Rangers can eat half of the salary, but that just drives up the trade cost.

The flat cap is also a concern. Strome’s $4.5 million is certainly manageable, especially given his production. But with the flat cap, few teams can bring on that full $4.5 million cap hit for this season and next. Again the Rangers can retain 50%, but that just drives up the cost.

Is It Worth It?

There’s an argument that Strome is worth more to the Rangers than he is worth in a trade. It’s likely why the Rangers didn’t trade him this past offseason. Given the holes at center and all the other considerations, Strome is a bit of a bargain for the Rangers right now.

Also, there’s no such thing as “selling high.” I’m not going to re-hash what I said on Twitter, but players aren’t stocks. Check the thread here. It’s a bit of a fallacy, with the concept of trade value spiking in a grey area.

When the whole picture comes into view, it looks highly unlikely the Rangers will trade Ryan Strome at the trade deadline. It’s certainly possible, but it seems that if a trade is coming, it will be after the expansion draft.