The Chicago Blackhawks are embracing the tank and opposing hockey teams are going to reap the benefits. We've already seen star winger Alex DeBrincat shipped to Ottawa, and future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Kane may be on the trading block in the coming days.
On Sunday, the team announced they would not be tendering a qualifying offer to 25-year-old Dylan Strome, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 13th. This 'QO' would have been $3.6M. The former 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft scored a career-high 22 goals for Chicago last season in 69 games, benefiting from playing alongside DeBrincat and Kane during the second half of the season when he averaged nearly a point per game.
Outside of Johnny Gaudreau, who may remain in Calgary or be too pricey for the Islanders, only Patrice Bergeron, David Perron and Phil Kessel had more points than Strome last season.
Does he fit with the Islanders?
The Islanders have strength at the center position with Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, and Casey Cizikas so at first glance, having another center in Strome doesn't make much sense. However, he's showcased a versatile offensive game and recent experience playing with Kane would make him adept at skating with a play-maker and skilled skater such as Barzal.
What also makes Strome an intriguing option is that he is just 25 years old and will be signed to a modest price tag with a reasonable term The bigger UFA names such as Filip Forsberg (8 years, $68M back to Nashville) and Gaudreau have and will sign mega-deals that will take them from their late 20s into their mid-30s.
Those deals, with rare exceptions, tend to become problematic for teams as the ages and production dips and the Isles already have several players that fall into that category. Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri are all in their 30s with multiple years left on their contract. Brock Nelson and JG Pageau are two additional players that have deals that go until age 33. Meanwhile, the years of the next Strome contract will likely take him into the prime of his career.
As long as he's surrounded by playmakers, it's a safe assumption that Strome will be able to match or outperform his numbers in Chicago as his game further matures. He's in a position to look for the right fit and bet on himself setting up the next, more lucrative contract the next time he hits the open market. If there isn't a willing trade partner or big-name UFA to be had, Strome is an intriguing option to consider for Lou Lamoriello.