Is Ryan Strome really a $4.5 million player for the New York Rangers?
The New York Rangers avoided arbitration today by signing Ryan Strome to a two-year, $9 million contract with an AAV of $4.5 million.
It was an important piece of business by the Rangers who are light at center behind elite forward Mika Zibanejad and Strome, with Filip Chytil playing more as a winger and the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Lias Andersson proving to be an absolute bust after being traded to the LA Kings for the 60th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
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Re-signing Strome gives the Blueshirts a solid one-two punch heading into the 2020-21 season, and the pivot is coming off a career-year in 2019-20 after putting up 18 goals and 41 assists for 59 points in 70 regular season games.
But, is Ryan Strome good value for what the Rangers will be paying him over the next two years?
If you just looked at Strome’s points total last season then you would say yes emphatically, but you have to dig a lot deeper in order to unearth the full picture.
Firstly, Strome had the absolute luxury of having the uber-talented Artemi Panarin on his wing in 2019-20, with the Russian superstar boasting the ability to elevate the game of any player around him.
Of course, you still have to take advantage of the opportunity presented to you and Strome certainly did that in 2019-20 with career-highs in assists (41), points (59), power play points (17) and ATOI (19:35).
There is a reasonable train of thought, however, as to what kind of player Strome would be without Panarin and we’ve certainly seen some evidence of that dating back to his time with the Edmonton Oilers.
Secondly, Strome’s offensive explosion with the Rangers after being traded by the Oilers in 2018-19 was also somewhat of a mirage when you really delve deep into some of the underlying numbers.
While he did put up 18 goals and 15 assists for 33 points in 63 regular season games, he also had an absurd shooting percentage of 22.5%, which was the second best mark in the entire NHL in 2018-19 for any player who had played 50 or more games for the same team.
It was an ungodly stat and it was no surprise that Strome crashed back to earth with his shooting percentage in 2019-20, dropping back to a more realistic 11.7%.
He also has a 47.4 winning percentage in the faceoff circle as a Ranger, which isn’t great for a second-line center while he’s also had more Giveaways than Takeaways in each of the last two seasons, which doesn’t do his defense or goalie any favors as illustrated by the chart below:
Strome can create offense but also likes to keep his goaltenders active as well. pic.twitter.com/4Dk1wKTgUM
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) November 5, 2020
Averaging 0.69 points per game and 0.27 goals per game with the New York Rangers but 0.19 and 0.52 for his career, Strome is hardly a typical high-end second-line center and his play in his own zone also leaves a lot to be desired.
So, while the Rangers will be banking on the fact that Strome will be on a line with Artemi Panarin again in 2020-21 and that will hopefully lead to another offensive outburst from the pivot, there is a strong argument to be made that Strome will be overpaid in 2020-21 and again in 2021-22 when you consider everything including the underlying stats, the eye test and the overall body of work.
Overall, it is feasible to argue that Ryan Strome isn’t a $4.5 million player given his role as a second-line center and it could be that he’s used as trade bait at the next Trade Deadline but, for now, the New York Rangers will hope that the player can elevate his game in 2020-21 and justify at least some of his new contract.