With unrestricted free agency set to open on Wednesday at noon, the Washington Capitals could look to upgrade in a few areas after their fourth straight first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Center Nicklas Backstrom is expected to be out indefinitely after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery, so the team could look to add some depth down the middle.
GM Brian MacLellan told the media last week that he did not see Capitals buying a high-dollar center (Strome wouldn’t qualify), though he could be posturing. If he is being serious, here is a less expensive option.
The Chicago Blackhawks will reportedly not qualify pending restricted free agent Dylan Strome, which will take him to unrestricted free agency. Here is why the Capitals should take a look at him:
The Capitals are in need of younger players after they were tied for the oldest team in the NHL last season with an average age of 29.8. Some youth could provide the veteran core with some juice to get better results and you can never have enough depth with risk of injuries, which comes with having an older roster. Strome would help them take a step in the right direction as he is only 25.
Productive Past Four Seasons
Strome set a career-high in goals (22) and came three points shy of his career-high (48) in 69 games last season. He hit the 12-goal and 38-point mark in just 58 games in 2019-20 and 34-assist and 51-point plateau in 58 during his first full NHL season the year prior.
In three of the past four seasons, Strome has earned points-per-game averages of .73, .66, and .7 (this past one). During the pandemic campaign, his point-per-game rate dipped to .43 but that appeared to be an anomaly after a bounce back season and with the circumstances of that campaign.
Strome was the third overall pick in 2015, which featured a deep draft class. He has showed that he could produce over his NHL career, especially this past season, and is in his prime.
With the potential of playing with Anthony Mantha, Conor Sheary, and/or T.J. Oshie down his wing, Strome would have the tools necessary to produce at a high level.
He earned a 48.28% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 48.87% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 48% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage last season but was on a team that finished 27th in the NHL. Strome averaged 2:42 on the power play (fifth among Blackhawks forwards).
Despite a productive season, the fact that the Blackhawks, who just traded star right-wing Alex DeBrincat and 21-year-old center Kirby Dach, did not have qualify him will deflate Strome’s value.
The Capitals could get Strome between $2.5-3 million (maybe even less) which is a very reasonable cost for a young center that has averaged between .65-.75 points-per-game consistently. Though, EvolvingHockey projects his next contract to feature around a $4.6 million cap hit.
Would Provide Flexibility
Strome has played second-line center for much of his tenure in Chicago and could add some fire power to the Capitals’ second power-play unit after setting career-highs with five goals and 16 points, respectively, on the man advantage (both of which would have ranked fourth on the Capitals) in 2021-22.
While the Capitals’ power-play improved down the stretch last season, it still finished 23rd in the NHL with a 18.8% efficiency. With Backstrom out indefinitely and right-wing Tom Wilson out for at least the first two months of the season, the team could use all the help they could get on the man advantage.
If Strome were to be brought in, some pressure would be taken off of Connor McMichael (which could help his development) and Lars Eller, who turned 33 in May.
By Harrison Brown