“Tomorrow” can be an abstract term. For the New York Rangers, it has been for the past several years. But in 2021, “tomorrow” has arrived. The goal of assembling a core composed of top prospects is complete. Logic would say that these said players need big minutes and roles to flourish. In David Quinn’s world, it says playing more of Ryan Strome, instead.
Ryan Strome: Growingly Questionable Role
A Purpose That Has Been Served
When the Rangers acquired Ryan Strome in return for a hollowed Ryan Spooner in November 2018, it was a risk-free hockey trade. It was a solid acquisition for the transitional stage the team had been in at the time.
Strome had underwhelming output with the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers and needed a change of scenery. It seemed like the 2011 fifth overall pick had uncracked potential—that he was a diamond in the rough, and that maybe, the Rangers could kickstart him.
And that they did. Strome tallied 33 points in 63 games as opposed to the measly two he had in Edmonton for 18 games that season. He followed with a career 2019-20 posting 59 points. Now, it goes without saying that playing on the same line as a top-five player in the world in Artemi Panarin will boost anyone’s numbers.
And given that younger centres such as Filip Chytil and Brett Howden were still finding their NHL footing, Strome was an appropriate placeholder. Many questioned who would fill that second line center role heading into last season and complained about Strome having a first shot at it. But he was serviceable for Panarin and with Jesper Fast, the line was a solid unit.
Restraining Young Talent on The Roster
But even if it has been only three games into this season, Strome’s purpose on that line is over. He has been nothing short of abysmal. Especially in the 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. He has looked out of sorts with his passing, shooting and overall decision making. Chytil, however, has been fantastic and there’s even arguments for Howden’s promotion as well.
What’s more is that Strome is currently on the first power play unit alongside Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. This is halting the opportunity for Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere to rightfully adjust to that role. After all, they are going to be franchise players for a long, long time.
Reflecting on Rebuild Transactions
Seeing how things are operating with this log-jam of talented forwards losing experience, it makes the Kevin Hayes trade two years ago more confusing. The Rangers shipped a big-framed, offensively prone, skilled second line-center away because they a) didn’t want to cough up the dollars to resign and b) wanted breathing room for young centers to play top-six minutes.
Now, yes, it created room for Panarin and Jacob Trouba to come. But in response to point “b”, it’s as if Hayes never left in terms of hindering the kids. Strome was a placeholder that is now over staying his welcome and it’s wasting potential.
Unfortunately, the ship may have sailed on getting a lucrative return for Strome in a trade. That could have been capitalized on this past offseason when the RFA’s value was at a peak. But the Rangers opted to extend a two-year $9 million deal that would lead to unnecessary headaches from inevitable regression.
Quinn and his coaching staff need to step back and realize that “tomorrow” is in front of them. The franchise has a bevy of young talent thirsty to make a splash. Limiting their minutes under the giant shadow Strome is casting isn’t helping anyone.
Demote him to the third line and second power play unit. Let the likes of Lafreniere, Kakko, Chytil and company get some sunlight.