While the rest of the hockey world waits to see what happens with Alex DeBrincat, one of his closest friends on the Chicago Blackhawks reportedly won’t be around next season.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Chicago is not expected to extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Dylan Strome, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next week.
McKenzie explained the details in a tweet:
In CHI-related news, not overly surprising, but it doesn’t sound as if the Hawks will be qualifying centre Dylan Strome. Expectation is he will be going to UFA on July 13. July 11 is deadline to issue Qualifying Offer but no reason to believe that will happen here. #outsider https://t.co/wIIbOd82Qd— Bobby Margarita (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 7, 2022
There have been similar reports from all corners of the Blackhawks’ beat in Chicago, but a national reporter chiming in with this report just adds another level of inevitability to it: Dylan Strome is going to leave town and the team will receive nothing in return.
Strome, 25, just played the final season of a two-year, $6 million extension he signed on Jan. 3, 2021. After coming to the Blackhawks in a 2018 trade for Nick Schmaltz, Strome enjoyed the best stretch of his career with 51 points in 58 games with Chicago during the 2018-19 season. There were plenty of struggles in the other seasons for Strome, though, who did seem to mesh well with DeBrincat and Patrick Kane on Chicago’s only legitimate scoring line last season.
It just feels like a strange move for the Blackhawks, to let Strome walk away for nothing. A qualifying offer would cost $3.6 million, and it’s not like this team is in need of any cost-cutting measures while it enters this rebuild. Plus, Chicago is already thin at forward and especially at center throughout its organization, so it’s not like Strome was going to steal ice time away from a prospect who needed it. And while it’s down on the list of priorities, Strome showed he was still capable of improvement just last season, when he posted a career-best mark of 52.3% at the faceoff dot — substantially higher than his career average of 48.6%.
Perhaps Strome could’ve earned a long-term spot in the organization. Perhaps he could’ve raised his trade value enough to be flipped at the 2023 deadline for picks and/or prospects. Or perhaps he would’ve underperformed and then walked as a free agent next summer, causing no apparent detriment to the Blackhawks’ rebuild. Bringing Strome back was a low-risk move with some slightly higher rewards available.
Instead, it all ends with nothing.
The only remaining piece from that aforementioned Schmaltz/Strome trade is blue-line prospect Alec Regula, whom the Blackhawks acquired in exchange for Brendan Perlini — another player shipped to Chicago from Arizona in 2018.