Dylan Strome’s season has taken a dramatic and positive turn since earning a top-line role with Patrick Kane. So much so, in fact, that I think the Blackhawks must try hard to hang onto him through the March 21 Trade Deadline.
But let’s back up a bit.
Since January 21, when he became a regular in the Blackhawks lineup (with most of that time spent on Kane’s line), Strome has recorded 20 points (12 goals, 8 assists) in 19 games. Compare that to the 10 total points he put up his first 26 games, when he was fighting for playing time and playing on the bottom lines, and you can rightly say that Strome has recorded two-thirds of his full-season production in just 19 games. That’s absurd. And it makes me wonder where he might be now, had Jeremy Colliton given him a shot at a top-6 role earlier this season.
But there are other equally impressive ways to break down this current heater. For example, in Strome’s first 26 games this season, he shot just seven percent on 40 shots. Since then, he’s shooting 25 percent on 48 shots, 10th best among skaters with 15 games and 20 shots in that span. Strome’s 12 goals since January 21 are tied for 11th with Sidney Crosby and Leon Draisaitl. Dylan Strome is not only on the top line these days; he’s playing like a top-line centerman.
And Patrick Kane has taken notice:
“Really noticeable lately is his ability to drive the net and create even more space for himself or his linemates,” Patrick Kane told reporters after Tuesday’s win over the Ducks. “He’s finding ways to get open, too, and he’s been finishing. So yeah, he’s been great. It’s good to have him here. Hopefully, it stays that way.”
Kane notices the difference in Strome’s game, but he’s said before this season that all he needed was the right opportunity to show what (Kane knew) Strome was capable of:
“To be honest with you, keeping a guy that’s that young is probably a better solution,” Kane told Ben Pope of the Sun-Times. [he] can be part of the future here. Especially when you give him a chance, and he shows that he can do it, time and time again. It’s pretty obvious if you give him a chance in a top-six role and on a power play, he’s going to produce. That’s just the fact.”
And, hey … Kane has benefitted from Strome’s emergence, as well. Since January 21, Patrick Kane has 29 points (7th), 10 goals (21st), and 19 assists (5th). So, I can see why he’d hope that Strome sticks around for a while.
So, shouldn’t the Blackhawks trade Strome, now that his value is much higher? We discussed last week how he’d built his stock back up, and scouts have been in attendance at every Blackhawks home game, so there will surely be suitors for Strome’s services in the next two weeks. But, should the Blackhawks trade him?
I don’t think so. Not yet, at least. Strome’s recent run of success has been a blast to watch, and he may very well be capable of being this guy, the guy the Coyotes thought they were getting when they drafted him third overall, the guy the Blackhawks thought they could unearth when they traded for him a few years ago, over the long-term. But I don’t think he’s earned the confidence of those around the league yet as a player who can sustain this version of his game for more than a couple of months.
In fairness to those evaluations, Strome’s entire career has been wildly inconsistent for one reason or another. As we discussed already, even this season has been wildly inconsistent. I discussed that the Blackhawks would be wise to listen to offers on Brandon Hagel (you don’t have to like it, but it’s happening), and if they’re blown away by one, they should take it. The difference between my views on Strome and Hagel is this; Strome isn’t going to get you an offer that blows you away in the next 12 days. Brandon Hagel might.
Moreover, the Blackhawks would be selling low on Strome if they traded him amidst his most recent heater. We may see and believe he’s made improvements, but that’s going to be a tough sell for the value.
This season, Strome is playing on an expiring contract and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. The Blackhawks should hold onto Strome, give him a qualifying offer (which would be a $3.7 million cap hit), and keep him on the top line with Patrick Kane until they decide to extend or trade him.
If Strome can play like this for the next year, we could be talking about him playing at a 50-goal pace. That’s when you sell if they ever do. For now, I think that Dylan Strome sticks around in Chicago beyond the March 21 deadline.