There is nothing wrong with letting Ryan Strome become a free agent

Is letting Ryan Strome become a free agent such a bad thing?

One of the more amusing narratives that has crept into the NHL is that every pending UFA should be traded, lest you lose them for nothing. The concept of “nothing” has been redefined to mean no tangible assets in return. This has found its way into the Rangers world, as Ryan Strome is an expiring contract. The concern is losing him for “nothing,” but there is nothing wrong with letting Ryan Strome become a free agent..

What is “nothing”?

The definition of nothing in return for a player has taken a wild left turn. It’s that the Rangers now, all of a sudden, need to trade their 2C and a key cog of the current roster so they can recoup assets. Those assets may be players for the current roster or future draft picks.

But is a playoff run “nothing”? Is that not something tangible that a team can use as a development tool for all its young, core players. What if the playoff run brings home a couple surprise series victories? With Igor Shesterkin in net, anything can happen. Is that not something tangible?

On letting Ryan Strome become a free agent

As great as Strome has been, and he has been fantastic, it’s been clear that the Rangers don’t have him in the long term plans. They’ve tried to trade him twice already, despite the solid seasons and chemistry with Artemiy Panarin.

And now that production and solid play has brought another concern, his contract demands. Larry Brooks is noting that the Rangers have begun preliminary conversations with Strome. Whether that means he will be re-signed remains to be seen. Based on Evolving-Hockey’s contract projections, which are pretty accurate, Strome is set to come in at $6.56 million over 5-6 years. However those are last year’s numbers, and do not take into account play in the 2021-2022 season.

A rising cap and a nice point total for Strome this year will drive that number higher. The Rangers, simply put, cannot afford that kind of a contract. They’ve spent their money on their veteran talent. Now they need to find savings on the complementary pieces.

And yes, Strome is a complementary piece. A very good one, and a great bargain right now. But on his next deal, at 29 years old, for 5-6 years? Not only do the Rangers have too many contracts like that, but they simply can’t afford it while needing to re-sign Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere.

A choice to be made

This is where people get hung up on letting Ryan Strome become a free agent. What has greater value?

  1. A playoff run with Strome
  2. Trading Strome for *something* and then having a giant roster hole for the playoffs

Given where the Rangers are today, I’d argue the playoff run has more value. Part of the Rangers next steps include a decision on Strome, but it’s also a decision on where his value is. Is his value in keeping him with Panarin long term into his thirties? Does he have more value as a trade chip? Or do the Rangers just take the good this year, and part ways to avoid what will likely be a bad contract?

Like it or not, the contracts already on the books make it so Ryan Strome becoming a free agent is a likely conclusion. Things can change, of course, but there is no value lost in keeping him through the deadline and letting him walk.