Cap space might be the first word that would come to mind when hearing the question, “What did the Edmonton Oilers get for Jordan Eberle?” The 27-year-old wing, while solid, has never been able to show consistency for a team over his seven-year NHL career. His 34-goal sophomore season is something he’s never really been able to duplicate, although he has put up at least 20 goals in four of the past five seasons. Yet his $6MM salary over each of the next two years was too much for an Oilers’ team that had plans to sign superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to extensions. Sure enough, the team will be paying them both $21MM per year starting next year. (Draisaitl’s $8.5MM per year does start this year, but McDavid’s extension doesn’t kick in until 2018-19.)
Yet despite clearing out cap room, the Oilers did come away with promising center Ryan Strome. The 24-year-old, once the fifth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, has a tremendous upside, but has yet to take that next step into a impact player. Even Strome’s best season of 17 goals and 33 assists in the 2014-15 season doesn’t compare to Eberle’s disappointing 2016-17 in which he put up 20 goals and 31 assists. David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes that Strome has quite a few positive points that should have the team excited for next season, including his ability to be that “glue” guy that teams are always looking for.
One of Strome’s attributes that stands out is his size. While Eberle was just 5-foot-11, 181 pounds, Strome stands in at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. He can take a hit much better than Eberle ever has been able to and should provide that grit the team needs. He should be able to withstand physical defenders better and provide consistent checking. He has good “on-ice” IQ and has the ability to know when to hold onto the puck and when to get rid of it. Strome doesn’t make many mistakes and seems to know when to dump the puck and where to be on defense. Staples also adds that his passing is outstanding, which is why he found himself on the Islanders’ power play quite often last year.
On the downside, Strome lacks speed and has struggled defending against quicker defenders. While general manager Peter Chiarelli has spoken about Strome’s slapshot, Staples has found little proof that it is as good as advertised. His lack of agility might also force the center to move to the wing, although its too early to know if the team plans to make that change.
Staples adds that Strome is a better choice to have on the team than Eberle as he is a better fit. The downside to Strome also is that his cheap $2.5MM deal expires at the end of the year, which means he will be a restricted free agent already next year and depending on his performance n