The Edmonton Oilers checked off another box in their offseason to-do list. After tendering restricted free agents Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse they locked one of them up signing Strome to a 2-year contract worth $6.2 million.
Following the signing of fellow RFA’s Drake Caggiula and Matt Benning, Peter Chiarelli did a good job locking Strome up. He had no choice to. He had to bring back the only piece he got in the Jordan Eberle trade to avoid looking foolish. But Strome was productive too.
People need to look at what Strome was able to do without factoring who he was traded for. The soon to be 25-year old struggled early in his debut in Edmonton playing the wing and being moved back and forth between the second and third lines. It wasn’t until late in the year when Strome was put at centre where he started to look comfortable.
Strome played in all 82 games for the Oilers in 2017-18 scoring 34 points (13G-21A). When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed time with a rib injury Strome took over as the third line centre. When Nuge came back Head Coach Todd McClellan opted to leave Strome in that spot eventually putting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the first-line with Connor McDavid and Ty Rattie to finish the year.
Since the Nugent-Hopkins injury on January 13 against the Vegas Golden Knights, Strome scored 17 of his 34 points with 6 of those being goals. Strome also saw his penalty killing time increase with the absence of Nuge and showed he can do the job. At this point he looks like one of the better two-way players behind RNH himself.
Strome also finished the year with a 44.3% face-off percentage. While this is far from impressive it wasn’t terrible and will be interesting to see what he can do if given a full season at the position.
At $3.1 million AAV it’s hard to complain about the signing. In an earlier piece I wrote I suggested that Strome should make around $2.5 million, a slight increase from his previous contract. With him being tendered at $3 million the $100,000 bump from that is understandable. With the added production that was shown late it’s a reasonable number and decent term locking him up for two years.
Peter Chiarelli hasn’t made any mind-blowing moves so far in this early offseason, but he’s done about what he could with what he has. He’s slowly locking up the RFA’s currently on the roster, not leaving any gaping holes in the line-up.
The key focus now will be the hardest. Darnell Nurse. He’s the only RFA left to lock up and possibly the biggest. With the Oilers having a projected $4.9 million in cap space left, signing Nurse to a long-term deal will be difficult. A bridge deal is most likely and even then, it will be hard without a trade being made to free up space.
Right now, however, we can be happy knowing the pieces are slowly starting to come together and while it may not look sexy on paper, its’ looking like a solid foundation.