Ryan Strome and the New York Islanders are closing in on zero-hour when it comes to agreeing on a new deal as a team policy states that if the restricted free agent hasn’t signed on before training camp, he won’t be suiting up when the season begins.
According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, though, the Islanders’ team-imposed signing deadline of training camp’s opening day isn’t a worry just yet. Even with camp slated to open on Sept. 22 — in less than two weeks — the Islanders and Strome are still engaged in talks and attempting to hammer out a deal.
The difficulty the two sides are having is almost assuredly related to Strome’s belief in his ability to bounce back from a down year, while the Islanders could be looking at Strome’s 2015-16 season as a reason to be cautious about locking him up to anything long term.
Strome looked as though he had his breakout season during 2014-15, scoring 17 goals and 50 points in 81 games in his first full season with the Islanders. The hope was Strome would be able to repeat or build upon that performance this past season in New York, but instead the 23-year-old only managed eight goals and 28 points in 71 games, which also included a brief stint in the AHL.
The most concerning thing about Strome’s regression in scoring is that it wasn’t even due to him falling out of favor or slipping down the lineup. Compared to 2014-15, he averaged an extra 16 seconds of ice time per game with the Islanders this past season, but he wasn’t able to muster the same amount of attempts on goal and his shooting percentage dipped by more than three percent.
That Strome’s numbers differed so much between the past two seasons makes it hard to pin down a perfect contract comparable. However, there are three players in Strome’s age range who’ve produced similarly over the past two campaigns. Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund and Carolina Hurricanes center Elias Lindholm are two players who’ve chipped in the similar goal and point totals at all strengths, while New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes has put up 5-on-5 numbers similar to Strome’s since the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
All three players — Granlund, Lindholm and Hayes — earn between $2.6 million and $3 million annually, and all three happen to be on two-year deals. Grandlund, unlike Lindholm and Hayes, is in the final season of his two-year pact, though, which makes Hayes’ two-year, $5.2-million deal and Lindholm’s two-year, $5.4-million contract better comparisons for Strome, who is going to be entering the first year of his deal.
That’s likely the range Strome will have to settle for on a bridge deal if he wants to get something done with the Islanders. It’s not a massive raise for the 2011 fifth-overall selection, but Strome can play two seasons under that deal and prove his worth. Hammering out a long-term deal probably won’t work well for either side right now, unless it comes at a cut-rate for the Islanders.
Regardless of what the two parties have in mind, though, they have less than two weeks to figure something out. Otherwise we may find out just how serious the Islanders are about sticking to their pre-camp signing policy.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.