Ryan Strome didn’t file for arbitration yesterday, leading many to believe he was close to a deal with the Edmonton Oilers. In fact, he has signed a two-year deal with the team that will take him through the 2019-20 season. The contract will carry a $3.1MM average annual value according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
Strome, 24, was acquired by the Oilers last offseason in a deal that saw Jordan Eberle head to the New York Islanders. Expected to be a cheaper contributor to the Oilers playoff dreams, Strome struggled once again to find his offensive touch and didn’t seem to have a regular role to fill on the Edmonton roster. Was he a winger who could help them fill out the top-six alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, or was he a bottom-six center that could be relied upon defensively? Neither were really true early, and the Oilers floundered near the bottom of the league all season.
In the late part of the season though there started to be some clarity on how things would shake out for the Oilers going forward. Strome was moved back to center where he could focus on his two-way game, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was put on the top line with McDavid and found immediate success. Though Nugent-Hopkins is also a natural center, it looks like he’ll be riding shotgun for another year. That leaves Strome battling with newcomer Kyle Brodziak for minutes down the middle, and trying to find some chemistry with players like Tobias Rieder, Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian, depending on how the lines are formed.
Strome had 34 points when it was all said and done last season, which was actually the second best NHL season of his career. Originally selected fifth-overall by the Islanders, there are still high hopes that he can provide some big secondary scoring numbers for the Oilers in the coming years. At $3.1MM he’s not a liability producing how he has the last two seasons, but he’s also not much of a value for Edmonton. These are the make-or-break seasons for Strome, who will be a restricted free agent for the final time in the summer of 2020.