7 Thoughts from 7 Day: Rangers swapping Strome for Danault?

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Photo Credit: AP / Graham Hughes

Free agency doesn’t open for another few hours, and there are rumors abound. The Ryan Strome trade rumors have been there, as have the rumors that the Rangers are targeting Phillip Danault. As of the writing of this post, nothing has gone down. However if both rumors come to fruition, then the Rangers would essentially be swapping Strome for Danault. Is that the best move? What are the short and long term implications?

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1. Ryan Strome has been something of a revelation for the Rangers. He went from bargain bin trade to a locker room leader and a true top-six center. That’s pretty impressive, and perhaps Strome was just a late bloomer. He always had the talent, but he finally put it together and showed he wasn’t just riding along with Artemiy Panarin.

Strome is all offense, something the Rangers have in spades in the top-six. Strome is somewhat of a luxury for the Rangers, especially if they are looking to find specific roles and balance out the lineup a bit. Strome is a bargain at $4.5 million too, but will he be in his next deal?

2. As for Danault, who has also been rumored to go to Vegas, he is probably the polar opposite of Strome. He’s almost entirely defense with some significant offensive play driving without the points to show for it. Danault is one of the premier shutdown centers in the league, lining up against top lines and doing his job well. He’s also a career 53% FO guy, which will help the Rangers league-worst FO percentage.

Danault will be an instant middle-six center that is lining up against the opposition’s top lines. With Chris Drury putting an emphasis on roles, he’d be the guy you want on the ice with a one-goal lead. He and Barclay Goodrow would be 2/3 of a formidable shutdown line that can also skate, move the puck, and score here and there.

3. One thing to take with a grain of salt is the perceived downgrade that is Strome to Danault, per the above charts. There are two things at play here. The first is that offense is naturally weight more, which is fine. The second is that Strome’s GAR is well above his xGAR across the board. This suggests he outperformed his expected results, which could lead to regression next season. That said, he did so with no real system in place.

If the Danault/Strome swap does go through, the Rangers will be sacrificing offense for defense. My guess is that Chris Drury would expect the offense lost by Strome and Pavel Buchnevich to be made up for in the aggregate with Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Vitali Kravtsov getting significantly more offensive ice time.

4. Speaking of Chytil, if the Rangers go after Danault it’s safe to assume he won’t be included in any Jack Eichel deal. If you assign traditional roles to Danault and Chytil, then Chytil would be your scoring 2C and Danault your shutdown 3C. Don’t read too much into that in today’s game, but it’s an easy way to relate to it. Remember that Chytil was 8th in the league –among centers at even strength, minimum 300 mins– in points/60 at 2.59.

That is an amazing group of players ahead of him, and he’s ahead of a lot of amazing players too. This doesn’t mean he’s the 8th best center in the league, so don’t go crazy. It suggests that he should be able to replace Strome’s production at even strength and the Rangers won’t miss a beat. It also suggests that if given time on the powerplay, he should be able to increase those raw point totals and make a big jump in production. This is merely reading the numbers, and Chytil would naturally need to produce and rise to the occasion.

5. Touched on before, but if the Rangers do this Strome/Danault swap, it’s a safe bet that they don’t trade for Eichel. There are rumblings that Buffalo’s owner doesn’t want Eichel in the conference, which means the Rangers were never truly in it without a massive overpay. Given the situation, this is the smart move. If it were peak, healthy Eichel, then maybe he’s worth a slight overpay with the number of assets the Rangers have. Then again, peak healthy Eichel may not be on the trade market.

6. The return for Strome would certainly be interesting. Vegas is rumored to be a landing spot for Danault, and if they miss then you would think they trade for Strome. We covered what the return might be yesterday, and even that is already outdated. The Knights cleared cap space by trading reigning Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury for nothing, and then not even letting Fleury know. As mentioned above, they’ve been linked to Danault too, so this might be a double whammy for them.

This return all depends on what Drury is looking for. If they don’t trade for Eichel, then they still have all their assets. Guessing it would be more futures, possibly draft picks? More darts at the board never hurt anyone.

7. One remaining item is cap space. Danault is likely to get $6 million over a number of years. He, Zibanejad ($9 million), Fox ($9 million), and Shesterkin ($5 million) are the big ticket items this year and next. That’s $29 million between that quarter, with Kravtsov and Kakko likely getting $6 million total. Those six key pieces are $35 million of their $48 million in cap space heading into 2023-2024. More than enough room there.

For 2024-2025, Lafreniere is the big contract, with K’Andre Miler and Zac Jones also up. This is where it might get tight depending on Lafreniere’s output the next two seasons. A few tough decisions might need to be made. But that is four seasons from now, and a lot will change.