Chicago Blackhawks: Dylan Strome has to step up to replace Kirby Dach

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Dylan Strome has a chance to prove his worth to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dylan Strome is one of the harder players to wrap your head around in the NHL.

In Arizona, he will forever be known as a bust, a player who failed to live up to pedigree as the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and the only reason why Nick Schmaltz currently wears a Coyotes jersey.

And as for his pedigree with the Chicago Blackhawks? The team that shipped Schmaltz fresh off a 52 point season to acquire his and Brendan Perlini‘s rights? That, my friends, is a bit harder to quantify.

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Sure, his stats rose considerably when he traded in his brick red, desert sand, and black sweater for Chicago red, white, and black – scoring 89 points in 116 games while averaging a career-high 16:30 ATOI – but the blistering emergence of another former third overall pick, Kirby Dach, rapidly made Strome expendable.

Hm… maybe expendable isn’t the right word. I mean come on, we’re talking about a soon-to-be-24-year-old with great size, wing/center versatility, and a pension for getting players like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat to play better when he’s on the ice than when he’s off it. While the Blackhawks could surely get back a decent return if some team wanted to trade for his RFA rights, Chicago surely seems to be better off keeping him around than not.

Now, more than ever.

Even if Dach is the future, the Blackhawks need to make sure Strome is their present, as they can’t afford to go into the 2020-21 season with neither on their roster.

Confused? Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

On Monday, December 28th, Chicago that the unfortunate honor of reporting that Dach had suffered a right wrist fracture during his time at the World Junior Championships and will miss the next four-to-five months while recovering. In theory, that doesn’t outright end the soon-to-be-20-year-old’s season, as the regular season goes into May before the NHL shifts to an intradivision playoff format, but it effectively wipes his regular season off the books barring a magical recovery.

This, obviously, is a crushing blow. Dach put up six points for nine games for the Blackhawks during the team’s 2019-20 playoff berth and looked like a guaranteed top-six player either playing behind Jonathan Toews or even pushing the 32-year-old for top-line minutes if he can further develop in his first full NHL season.

With Dach gone, the Blackhawks are going to need to count on Strome now more than ever, especially with a playoff berth in the new Central Division far from guaranteed.

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Whether they opt to sign the Mississauga, Ontario native to a one-year, prove-it deal, a two-year deal in the $3-3.5 million range, or even a long-term deal worth something in the ballpark of $4 million AAV, the Chicago Blackhawks simply can’t mess around and play hardball with Dylan Strome and try to force him to accept his qualifying offer, not anymore. With training camp right around the corner and the 2020-21 NHL season officially set to begin on January 13th, getting Strome in camp ready to contribute has to be priority number one. Who knows, maybe with another season under his belt in Jeremy Colliton‘s system, maybe he can prove his worth and perfectly set the team up for Kirby Dach’s return come playoff time?