While we’re all in limbo as to what will become of the remainder of the NHL season, there is not much to go on except when it comes to trade rumors. It can be challenging to differentiate rumors when it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks because the majority of their players are immovable for different reasons. That is why when center Dylan Strome’s name emerged in the trade mill abyss, I thought it was something worth exploring.
As a refresher, Strome came to the Blackhawks back in 2018 from the Arizona Coyotes as part of a trade package for center Nick Schmaltz. Strome had a hard time living up to his “third-overall pick” draft status in the desert. During his three total seasons there, he played in only 28 games with 16 points and a faceoff percentage (FO%) of 49%. Ever since his arrival in Chicago, he had 51 points in 58 games with a FO% of 44. This season, he 38 points in 55 games with a FO% of 47.
He had an interesting season with being switched from center to wing, but nonetheless, he has shown consistency in parts of his game that have proven beneficial to the Blackhawks.
Strome’s name started popping up during the trade deadline in February. His name was mostly associated with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were suggested to be looking for a third-line center for their playoff run and with the Blackhawks being sellers it made Strome a justifiable target. However, nothing came of that, and now another team has entered the discussion: the Buffalo Sabres.
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The Sabres are a team that made it to the Strome trade forefront when renowned hockey journalist, Elliotte Friedman made a statement about him to a Buffalo sports radio show called “The Instigators”. The hosts of the show are known to have a liking to Strome. Because of that, they asked Friedman about his availability. He explained in part:
He’s available. I don’t think the cost is particularly prohibitive.
Those who follow Friedman know that he is very accurate when it comes to NHL news and rumors. If he mentions something, it usually means there is traction to it. The Sabres are currently in a world of hurt and need just about everything. It would make sense if a team like them were to have an interest in a player like Strome. But, we’re now left with the question, “Should the Blackhawks trade Strome?”. I say maybe.
With the team on the downswing, I don’t think that management can keep the same roster together and expect different results. From a roster standpoint, Strome is the one player that can easily be moved. He is set to be a free agent after this season, so he isn’t financially stuck in the organization. He is also a player that can give the team a substantial return. Currently, the Blackhawks’ center depth revolves around Strome, Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, David Kampf, Ryan Carpenter, and Zack Smith. Highly touted prospect Evan Barratt will also be joining the fold next season.
It leads me to believe that general manager Stan Bowman will be wanting to shake up the center group, but I think that Bowman would want to move Kampf or Smith before Strome. The only problem is Smith has a cap hit of over $3 million which makes him hard to move. I don’t think Kampf is a player that would give the team much in return which makes him hard to move as well. That is where Strome comes in.
The 23-year-old looks to be a good depth player. The fact that he is young and seeing growth in Chicago surely ups his ante to other interested teams. The Blackhawks salary cap situation comes into question too. (from ‘Postponed season, lost NHL revenue might affect Blackhawks’ free-agency plans,’ Chicago Sun-Times, 03/15/2020). Seeing that they have nine free agents on their roster, including Strome, that adds more fuel to the fire. If he finds himself above the Blackhawks financial means, then they may have no choice but to trade him.
With the Blackhawks’ entire center group performance being very shaky, it makes Strome a strong case for being a part of the future. However, if they can get proven forward talent for him that can help right away, then I think it is something that should be seriously discussed. I don’t believe they can settle just for draft picks as a return because those are a gamble that you’re not always sure to win. The franchise can’t wait. They need to win now.
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I don’t think much should be off the table at this point. Now all that’s left to do is wait to see what the storm will bring.