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Ryan Strome: An Undecided Blueshirt

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The Rangers have to decide how Strome will affect or effect their future

NHL: New York Rangers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The future of Ryan Strome with the New York Rangers is yet another decision Jeff Gorton will have to make with the trade deadline now a little over a month away. Despite improvement, the question remains, is Strome worth extending or do the Rangers trade him?

At the conclusion of this season, Strome’s two year, $6.2 million contract will end. He will be a restricted free agent and eligible for arbitration. According to CapFriendly, with a current cap hit of $3.1 million and multiple previous smaller contracts, Strome will definitely be asking for a pay raise and a multi-year deal.

When this season began, the 26 year-old forward was not seen as a long-term piece moving forward. Out of the 81 games he played last season, 18 played with the Edmonton Oilers and 63 with the Rangers, he scored 19 goals and picked up 16 assists. So far this season, Strome has become one of the highest scoring players in the league. He is currently among the league’s 50 highest-scoring skaters, level with players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Blake Wheeler.

This is the most fun I’ve had playing hockey personally […] The Rangers are the first team that ever put me at center in the top six. I’ve taken the opportunity and run with it. Maybe it’s taken a little longer than I thought, but certainly I learned from the ups and downs. (Lohud.com)

With 12 goals and 30 assists in the 47 games he has played, he has proven to be performing much better than expected.

Stephen Valiquette called Strome an impact player coming off the Blueshirts’ 6-2 win against the New York Islanders last week. “He’s a great playmaker from the perimeter to get his teammates into the slot area with cross-ice passes that lead to Grade A scoring opportunities,” said Valiquette of Strome’s ability to “lead his teammates in for scoring opportunities like breakaways and two-on-ones.” He is playing better offensively and having success since being moved to the second-line earlier this season.

However, Strome’s more consistent performance on the ice is being accredited to the second-line chemistry with Artemiy Panarin, who has six years left on his contract. The success the two have had could be expanded beyond this year if Strome is extended. Additionally, Strome could increase his own value if he continues to make the necessary plays on the ice and scores more goals of his own, which he has not in the past five games.

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Strome will be asking for $4 million a year at the very least this next contract. The Rangers do not have to commit to a long-term extension. It is important to remember that as a seven-year veteran in the league who is turning 27 come July, Strome will be an unrestricted free agent at the expiration of his next contract. A short-term extension, maybe two to three years, would put him in a similar contractual position that Chris Kreider is currently in. But because he’s never had a contract longer than his original entry-level deal, the odds of him not capitalizing on his current all-time high value are unlikely.

Still, he could be of interest to teams making a playoff run who are in need of forward and center depth. His being traded could lead to potential draft picks — a younger player that could represent a more permanent piece in the future. Or, at the very least, it could create some room in the salary cap to make moves for other players.

This decision cannot be made only looking at Strome’s improvement over the course of this season. It cannot be assumed that he will continue to develop in the way that he has because there could be a drop in his performance at any moment given his age.

After Sunday night’s 2-1 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets, I am sure some fans want him traded for his ill timed line change which resulted in the Blue Jackets winning goal.

It will be interesting to see what the final decision is in regards to Strome’s future as a Blueshirt and how that decision plays into the larger narrative of the Rangers rebuild.