The New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers have decided to shake things up by exchanging centers. The Rangers were the first to announce the deal, which sees them send Ryan Spooner to the Oilers for Ryan Strome. This is is a one-for-one swap, although TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Rangers have retained $900K of Spooner’s contract to make it an even salary exchange.
This trade is simple case of two players who didn’t work out in new locations and needed a change of scenery. If Spooner’s and Strome’s names look familiar in a trade context, it is because both were just shipped off last season. In the 2017 off-season, the Oilers sent Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders straight up for Strome. The move was panned initially, then Strome gained some support over the course of the season, but after recording just two points through 18 games to begin the new campaign, he was again drawing the ire of executives and fans alike. Spooner was included in the package that the Boston Bruins sent to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash at last season’s trade deadline, but hardly seemed like the centerpiece in a deal that also featured a first-round pick and defensive prospect Ryan Lindgren. Although Spooner played very well for the Rangers down the stretch, he too has just two points to show for his efforts this season, a disappointment to those who felt he could play a top-six role for the team moving forward.
It will be difficult to determine a winner in this trade for some time. Both players carry a cap hit of $3.1MM through the 2019-20 season. Spooner, 26, and Strome, 25, are almost dead even in career points, although Spooner has 160 points in 289 games whereas Strome has 162 points in 358 games, close to a season more. Both are power play assets who can be too passive offensively at even strength and are known for streaky play. The only main difference between the pair is in style; Spooner is an elite passer and a quicker player with very little patience for the defensive aspects of the game, while Strome is two-way forward with penalty-killing prowess, superior possession numbers and more goal-driven production.
Back with the man who drafted him in Boston, GM Peter Chiarelli, Spooner likely stands the best chance of a rebound. The Oilers have been looking to improve their team speed and Spooner certainly brings that element to his game. Edmonton’s usage of Spooner will bear watching, as the team could use a high-end play-maker on the wing more than they really need a third-line center, but historically Spooner has fit better down the middle and the loss of Strome does vacate a spot. Meanwhile, Strome joins a center-heavy lineup in New York and will likely have to earn a spot down the middle. The Rangers could use his scoring touch, if he can find it, but also need more two-way accountability, which Strome can bring.The Rangers’ brass watched Strome play with the Islanders for years and know what they’re getting in this deal. Both players have struggled to fit in in previous NHL situations; the Oilers and Rangers hope this time they can get it right.