Oilers Should Pursue Dylan Strome if Evander Kane Leaves This Summer

The Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks may be two of the busiest teams this offseason. The Oilers have a number of players to either re-sign or let walk with some trades to move out money on the horizon to clear cap space. All signs point to the Blackhawks rebuilding, so there will be plenty of calls to them regarding any and all players on their team.

Let’s look at how this can play out and why it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

A Situation Where Evander Kane Leaves the Oilers

The Oilers have a lot on their plate this offseason regarding impactful free agents that need new contracts. They have three young players they drafted in Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ryan McLeod who are all restricted free agents (RFA) and will all require a raise of some sort for next season. While the man in question, Evander Kane, is going to get his payday after the half-season he put together with the Oilers.

Connor McDavid Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Evander Kane of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Oilers took a chance on him when hardly any team was willing to after his fallout with the San Jose Sharks and it couldn’t have worked out much better. Kane scored a combined 35 goals and 56 points in 58 games during the regular season and playoffs and was a big reason why the Oilers made it as far as they did. He filled the need for an impactful winger who can put the puck in the back of the net for a low cost of $2.108 million against the cap. Looking at the deal the Oilers got now seems ridiculous, and he will require at least $6 million for a number of years on his next deal.

The Oilers may be hesitant to give him the term more than the money despite being crunched for cap when everyone has been signed to a deal since the team will already have Zach Hyman signed to the end of 2027-28 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins signed to the end of 2028-29. That takes both of them deep into their 30s. The Oilers don’t want to be a team that has too many veterans on longer deals as they come out of their primes and are stuck in limbo like the Sharks for example.

Related: 4 Oilers Who Likely Won’t Return for 2022-23 Season

If Kane doesn’t get the money and term he is looking for, there will certainly be at least one other team willing to give him what he wants. The thing that would keep him in Edmonton is if general manager (GM) Ken Holland chooses Kane over one of their RFAs or Kane values the chance to win and be successful over money. That is still up for debate, but before joining the Oilers, he had only made the playoffs in two of his 12 seasons.

Blackhawks in Rebuild Mode

The Blackhawks made it clear that they are rebuilding when they traded Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Carpenter. GM Kyle Davidson also described the process as a rebuild and not a re-tool. The deal that let us know the most that the Blackhawks are trying to rebuild is when they sent Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning for prospects Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk while also acquiring two first-round picks over the next two seasons. Sending Fleury to the Minnesota Wild was the right decision in that he wasn’t likely to return and the Blackhawks were well out of the playoff hunt by the trade deadline.

Hagel, with his age and skill, would have been a great piece to help the Blackhawks come out of their rebuild in a few years. But the return they got should also help that as they got a number of pieces that could be much more impactful than just one player who was clearly worth a lot this season with his cap hit.

Brandon Hagel Tampa Bay Lightning
Brandon Hagel, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

The only player that will likely be off the table in a trade is Seth Jones who will be starting his eight-year, $76 million contract next season. Veterans Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will only be moved on the last year of their deals if they want to be, while there would definitely be a ton of interest in a player like Alex DeBrincat. But the player we are interested in from the Blackhawks this offseason to replace a possible hole in the lineup is Dylan Strome.

Dylan Strome’s Ties to McDavid & Fit With the Oilers

Strome is an RFA and is coming off a two-year deal that had a cap hit of $3 million per season. By the way, his past two seasons have gone, he won’t be asking for too much of a raise and would be playing on another prove-it contract. Like Evander Kane, the Oilers would be able to sign Strome for cheaper and give him every opportunity to succeed.

Strome was able to play his best hockey in between Patrick Kane and DeBrincat and had ties to DeBrincat from playing junior together. The other linemate Strome had was McDavid who helped him along to becoming the fourth overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes. He wasn’t able to find his footing in the NHL as a member of the Coyotes but immediately found chemistry when given a chance to play with stars. Edmonton would be able to offer the same, as McDavid would be without a winger if they didn’t bring Evander Kane back. Strome is able to play both centre and wing as he was flanking McDavid in junior for the Erie Otters as he put up 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Elliott Friedman mentioned in 32 Thoughts that teams may be wary of extending qualifying offers to some players, Strome’s name included, so the Oilers may even be able to target him in free agency rather than making a trade for him. But if they want exclusive negotiating rights and they have made up their mind on Evander Kane, they could send something over to the Blackhawks to bring in Strome early.

Strome produced respectable numbers this season with 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games after being scratched at times near the beginning of the season and playing lower in the lineup due to a very slow start. He may not bring the physicality, but he’s also affordable and can put the puck in the back of the net. He was able to turn it around and should spark the interest of the Oilers on a low-risk deal.

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