Dylan Strome is in a complicated position. With a flat salary cap and two larger priorities for the Blackhawks — Dominik Kubalik and Corey Crawford — Chicago doesn’t have a lot of cap space. But he’s stated a wish to remain with the Blackhawks.
We’re likely to see Strome, a pending restricted free agent, given a qualifying offer and perhaps nothing more than that, a bigger deal delayed until 2021.
Next season will change a lot for the Blackhawks and Strome. Kirby Dach will likely step into the role of second-line center, as he did in the postseason, which is a role once seemed destined for Strome. Perhaps it could be again as Jonathan Toews will be 33 years old next April.
Even if Strome is Chicago’s third-line center next season, that doesn’t mean he won’t have talent around him. Coach Jeremy Colliton could decide to keep Strome and Alex DeBrincat together, or rookie Pius Suter could make the team and become another Dominik Kahun or even Kubalik.
What kind of deal could Strome be looking at?
One contract negotiation to watch is between the Stars and Roope Hintz.
Hintz plays center on-and-off (he took 345 faceoffs this season while Strome took 581; both won less than 50 percent), and rotates between the second and third lines. Hintz is the same age as Strome (23) and coming off his entry-level contract. He scored more goals (19 to 12) than Strome, but fewer points (33 to 38) in two more games.
Both players had better real-life results than expected. Hintz had a 55.1 percent goal share compared to a 49.65 percent shot share; Strome had a 57.14 percent goal share compared to a 47.79 percent shot share.
Dallas also doesn’t have much cap space and have other important restricted free agents to re-sign with forwards Radek Faksa and Denis Gurianov. They also need to figure out their goaltending situation with backup Anton Khudobin set to be an unrestricted free agent and rookie Jake Oettinger waiting in the wings.
Bridge deal comparisons
There are two potential deals for Strome outside of the qualifying offer given to RFAs. The first is a bridge deal, a two- or three-year contract potentially setting up a bigger deal in the future.
With .66 points per game in his second season with Chicago, Strome remained productive offensively. He had 4.7 goals above replacement (GAR) this season as well as .8 wins above replacement (WAR). Although his scoring fell — from 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) with Chicago during the 2018-19 season to 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) this past season, both in 58 games — he remained a needed member of the Blackhawks’ lineup.
A shorter term deal would give both him and the Blackhawks a chance to see what he could do as the third-line center. There are comparable contracts to the situation.
(Closeness was determined from a series of factors which included: age, points in their last season before signing, goals, assists, primary points, Corsi, shot share, goal share, expected goal share, high-danger share, GAR and WAR.)
Andreas Athanasiou (with Red Wings)
Contract: Two years, $3 million average annual value
Percentage of cap: 3.77
Pavel Zacha (with Devils)
Contract: Three years, $2.25 million AAV
Percentage of cap: 2.76
Ryan Strome (with Oilers)
Contract: Two years, $3.1 million AAV
Percentage of cap: 3.9
It’s worth noting Anthanasiou and the older Strome were traded during those contracts, with the former heading to Edmonton and the latter to the Rangers.
Taking the averages of the above contracts comes in at 3.48 percent of the cap, which translates to $2.84 million AAV for Chicago’s Strome.
Long-term deal comparisons
If the Blackhawks trust Strome will return to a similar production as last season long term they could offer him a longer-term deal. Many of the closest situations to Strome were offered longer-term deals.
The comparisons presented below signed multi-year deals that ranged from 4.67 percent to 6.07 percent of their team’s salary cap. As of this writing, that would be between $3.81 million and $4.95 million AAV.
Christian Dvorak (Coyotes)
Contract: Six years, $4.45 million AVV
Percentage of cap: 5.6
Andrew Shaw (Canadiens)
Contract: Six years, $3.9 million AAV
Percentage of cap: 5.34
Sean Couturier (Flyers)
Contract: Six years, $4.33 million AAV
Percentage of cap: 6.07
Lars Eller (Capitals)
Contract: Five years, $3.5 million AAV
Percentage of cap: 4.67
With a flat cap — a situation none of the other players faced — Strome is unlikely to get that contract. At least more unlikely than to sign a bridge deal. A $2.84 million deal is potentially salvageable for the Blackhawks, especially if it keeps Strome as a RFA in a few years. Even if he sees a skyrocket in production a la Couturier, $4.95 million is a lot to account for.
Dvorak’s 5.6 percent of the cap (right now that would be $4.56 million) is appealing in a long-term contract for Strome, if he regained last season’s form.