The New York Rangers have avoided arbitration with Ryan Strome and signed him to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million a season against the cap.
Strome in for two years at $4.5M cap hit per, Post has learned.— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) November 5, 2020
Structure: $4M/$5M for the Ranger— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 5, 2020
The two sides were set to go to arbitration and this deal represents both sides meeting somewhere in the middle of their respective offers. The Rangers’ offer to Strome was initially $3.6 million, whereas Strome was looking for $5.7 million.
Most restricted free agents who file for arbitration typically don’t reach that hearing; Pavel Buchnevich, Jacob Trouba, and Mika Zibanejad all settled prior to their dates in recent years, as did Tony DeAngelo this offseason.
The 27 year old is coming off a two-year contract worth $3.1 million on average that he signed with the Oilers in July 2018. It was worth 3.9 percent of the cap at the time of the signing. This deal, his fourth, is worth 5.52 percent of next year’s $81.5 million cap. For the first time in his career, this contract will take him up to unrestricted free agency.
A two-year contract for Strome does make him eligible for Seattle expansion, as the team needs to expose at least two forwards who are under contract in 2021-22 and have played at least 40 NHL games in the last year or 70 between the prior last two seasons. The Rangers’ forwards who are signed through 2021 (and do not have no-movement clauses, making them potentially eligible), currently don’t meet the ‘games played’ requirement; Kevin Rooney, who was signed this offseason, for example, needs 21 games this season to reach that marker. As it stands, just Strome, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brett Howden meet those ‘games played’ requirements; the later two will become RFAs in 2021 though.
Evolving-Hockey’s contract projections had a one year deal for Strome coming with a $4.75 million cap hit. Their two-year projection was $4,945,000, so the Rangers actually come in below their projection.
Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic had Strome’s market value at $3.3 million a year, as shown in the viz below. This also shows that he projects to be a top-six center in both years of this new contract.
This contract can be best compared to those signed by middle-six centers. The most comparable player signings include, according to CapFriendly, include Chris Tierney (two years, $3.5 million AAV signed last month), Brock Nelson (one year at $4.25 million in 2018), Ryan Spooner (one year, $4 million signed by the Rangers in 2018), and Marcus Johansson (three years, $4.58 million signed in 2016).
Strome scored a career high of 59 points in 70 games this season, and scored at a milestone rate of 2.58 points per 60 in all situations. The right-handed center also played the highest ice time of his career, an average of 19:35 minutes per game which was over a 3.5 minute increase from his previous best.
Below the surface, he rebounded in terms of Evolving-Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement from -1.8 in 2018-19 to 6.7 this past year which is the second best marker of his career and ranked eighth on the team. While his defensive components lagged, his offensive metrics (11.2 even strength offense and 2.1 power play offense) propelled him higher. His total offensive score of 13.3 ranked second on the team, behind only his frequent linemate Artemiy Panarin.
The below heat maps from HockeyViz help reflect his impact on both ends of the ice. On the top row of charts, red represents where more offense is created. The same is true for the bottom row, but here, blue areas are ideal as they show where shots are suppressed in the defensive zone. So while Strome had a positive influence on the offense, his defensive impact was a concern.
Since Strome has been extended, the Rangers are currently going into next season with much of the same center depth as last year between Mika Zibanejad, Filip Chytil, and Brett Howden. The question is where Strome will slot. Will it be alongside Panarin again, or down the middle of the third line with Chytil moving up? There are also questions as to how much more will be done to bolster their depth at center.
With Strome under contract for next season, New York has $6,379,367 in projected cap space with 13 forwards, seven defenders, and two goaltenders signed for 2020-21. Due to the potential of rookies hitting on their bonuses, the actual number will be much lower when all is said and done. Brendan Lemieux is the next restricted free agent on the docket.