Playing Dylan: Deeper Dive On Capitals New Center Dylan Strome

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

If you followed along with us during the days leading up to the opening of NHL free agency on July 13, you know we were lobbying for the Washington Capitals to sign Chicago Blackhawks unrestricted free agent center Dylan Strome. It was like dangling a steak in front of a dog.

The Blackhawks had made it known several days prior to the opening of free agency that they were not going to qualify the then restricted free agent Strome. He was going to hit the open market. And as it turns out, the Capitals were ready to pounce.

A REFRESH ON REASONING

So why were we lobbying for the Capitals to sign Strome? Here was our initial reasoning from back on July 11, which holds true today as we approach the start of the 2022-23 season.


Young

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.

High Upside

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 on 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).

Cheap Cost

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 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 can 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.


REVIEW AND PREVIEW

New Contract

The Capitals ended up signing Strome for a little more than we expected (1 Year/$3,500,000), but much less than Evolving Hockey had projected. As it turned out, and unsurprisingly, the battle to sign Strome was even more competitive than we originally forecasted. The Capitals would finally ink Strome on the second day of free agency. The term of one year is a good fit for both sides, as Strome will set his value for next summer on his performance this season.

New Scene

Strome will feel the pressure centering the second line, initially filling in for the injured Nicklas Backstrom. There is no way to avoid it. He has never really had to deal with any kind of heavy pressure in Chicago. How will he deal with an intermittent slump or downturn in play, as happens with all players? He shouldn’t be compared to Backstrom, but it will happen. It’s unavoidable.

New Linemates

How will Strome settle in centering the second line? Strome finished the season skating on a high-powered line with Kane and DeBrincat. Yes, that will improve anyone’s stats, but to his credit, he survived and thrived on the top line. Give him play makers and he will make plays.

Strome will most likely have Anthony Mantha on the left side and either T.J. Oshie, Connor Sheary or even the newly acquired Connor Brown on the right side at the start of the season, a line that could be considered as having a little less punch than the line with DeBrincat and Kane. How will the second line come together will be a big focus during the first half of the season.

We could even see Strome centering the third line during the season. If Nicklas Backstrom returns, or Connor McMichael outperforms Strome centering the second line, how will Strome settle in on the third line?

Reloaded And Ready

The performance of the Capitals second line will have a lot to say about the team’s ultimate success this season. The team has several options to center the second line, but look for Dylan Strome to get the start. How he does in the first two months of the season will be key.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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7 Responses to Playing Dylan: Deeper Dive On Capitals New Center Dylan Strome

  1. Anonymous says:

    He’s going to have a little less talent to play with compared to Chicago. If he can match stats from previous seasons that has to be considered a win. Love that he is on a prove it deal.

    • Anonymous says:

      For all you know, he could end up playing on O and Kuzy’s wing, which would be an upgrade.

      The Caps have a far more talented roster than the Hawks, and while his line is likely to be less talented than it was in Chicago, he also won’t be going up against the top D unit on every shift, like he did when he was Kane’s center.

  2. mark says:

    He will be missed on and off the ice. He was said to be a great teammate and and an overall humble guy. If he gets the opportunity to play with good to better linemates he will produce. He has a real nose for the net and can be ‘last minute’ creative. Meaning at the end of a developing play he seems to dot the i when needed. Very heads up player. That said, the Caps just got a lot slower. He carries bricks in his skates

  3. steven says:

    If he can produce equal to last year the Caps need to offer him an extension by late Dec/early Jan to show that they want him and hope that he resigns. This is a player that can do wonders for this team and play multiple positions on multiple lines. A vast improvement over Eller and more speed than Backy. Now if we just had a HC who liked to play the best players not just the old ones!

    • Dan says:

      Yes, but also no pressure. The real beauty of the deal is he will be an RFA after this season so the Caps can do as you suggest or wait until after. Of course they might have to deal with an offer sheet if they wait, but that’s unlikely.

  4. DWGie26 says:

    I’d like to see Strome between Sheary on left and Brown on the right. I think Strome can elevate the scoring of both while Sheary and Brown will cover up defensively. On paper they don’t strike fear of a powerful second line, but if the chemistry works out, they could be sneaky good.

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