Every team makes a bad trade and the Edmonton Oilers are no exception. Over the past four seasons, the organization has made some whoppers, but perhaps no trade is worse in that time span than the transaction that sent Ryan Strome to the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner.
On November 16, 2018, the Oilers moved Strome in a head-scratcher of a deal. He wasn’t playing lights out for Edmonton, but he certainly wasn’t awful. More importantly, he was well-liked by his teammates and this wasn’t a deadline deal trade or an offseason move to save cap space or make room for someone else. No, this was a one-for-one hockey trade and the Oilers inexplicably believed Spooner could be a better player.
It’s clear now how big a win this deal was for the Rangers and how much the Oilers would love to have it back today.
Strome Is On Fire This Season
As of this writing, Strome is currently 28th in NHL scoring. This is the second season in a row that Strome has played well, but his 74-point pace per 82 games this year has put him on an entirely different level. It’s one the Oilers might want to be paying attention to.
He’s proven he can play with top-end talent, he can score and produce and his chemistry with Artemi Panarin has been excellent. And, he’s doing all of this on a team-friendly salary of $4.5 million. A 60-70 point player at that price is a player you take all day, every day.
The Oilers Might Need a Player Just Like Him
Granted, it’s unlikely the Oilers (and probably few others) could have predicted Strome would skyrocket his production to these kinds of levels. Still, he’s exactly the type of player Edmonton is currently looking for, and even more so, could be looking for in a few months. He’s a right-shot center who can play in the top-six, one who can also play the wing and a player who is valued on special teams.
No, his faceoff skills aren’t exactly top notch, but he does gets minutes on the penalty kill and he can heavily contribute on the power play, where he’s played the third-most minutes for the Rangers this season.
Interestingly, there’s talk both in Edmonton and in New York that the teams might be on the cusp of making changes with players in similar positions. When it comes to New York, it always sounds like the Rangers are looking to upgrade. There’s some thought that the team can’t contend with Strome as the second-line center and there has been chatter in the past about moving him. When you factor in that the Rangers are attached to rumors regarding a player like Jack Eichel, — frankly, they are often attached to every big name — Strome would certainly have to be moved to accommodate such an acquisition.
Strome’s name is often out there, although this season may have changed the way the organization views him.
What Does This Have to do With the Oilers?
As for the Edmonton Oilers, there’s some uncertainty when it comes to the future of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Clearly, the plan is to extend him, but there’s potential trouble brewing when it comes to what a contract looks like and if the number is higher than $6 million per season, there’s a real question about whether or not he stays.
One of the theories floating around is that Edmonton might try to look for two players making a total of $6 million that can bring what one of Nugent-Hopkins brings. That would mean finding a top-six forward who can play the power play and then a third-line center more equipped to play penalty kill minutes and win faceoffs. Could the Oilers bring in Strome to fill that top-six role, then spend another $1.5 million on a third-line option in the flat cap salary era? Possibly.
I won’t even pretend to know what a trade might look like that could bring Strome back to Edmonton. That’s an entirely separate conversation. I’m simply throwing this out there as an idea should things with Nugent-Hopkins go sideways.
Strome is having a better season, he’s less expensive, he’s younger and he’s got a history in this city with players who probably would welcome him back. It would take the sting off of losing someone like Nugent-Hopkins and give the Oilers more room to play financially.
If worse comes to worse and Strome’s offense dips, the Oilers aren’t locked in long-term and he’s a fine third-line center option.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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