New York Rangers: What Ryan Strome means for this season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 17: Ryan Strome #16 of the New York Rangers skates in his first game with the team against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on November 17, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While the New York Rangers trade of Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome may not mean much for this season, it’s reflective of a greater understanding of the organization’s situation.

Throughout Jeff Gorton’s tenure as general manager of the New York Rangers, he’s always shown a willingness to make moves. Whether it be desperate moves at the trade deadline to sure up a contender or this past year in which he sold off expiring assets to start a rebuild. At the very least, everyone knows Gorton is aware of where his team is at in the grand scheme of things.

The hiring of David Quinn as head coach is a clear example of this effort. With a five year contract, Quinn is being given great leeway in decisions as his lineup choices prove. Sliding two first-round picks on the same line as Cody McLeod may not go over as well with a more personality driven executive, but Gorton doesn’t meddle.

This is where we come to the Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome trade. At face value, this seems like an inconsequential move in the grand scheme of things. One 26-year-old depth forward for a 25-year-old depth forward doesn’t exactly move the needle. However, it’s the context surrounding the two players that tells a greater story.

It was clear that Spooner was not gelling with the Rangers, although he had a nice showing down the stretch last season, his play noticeably dipped. The most telling statistic was Spooner’s relative Corsi for percentage meaning his CF compared to his teammates was substantially worse than most other players on the team.

By the numbers

CF% is a measure of a team’s chances compared to its opponent during the course of a game. Meaning that the CF% of a player translates to the percentage of shots their respective team generates while they’re on the ice. So, if Spooner’s CF% was 39.4 that means when he was on the ice, the Rangers were only generating that percentage of shots in the game.

Now, adding the extra layer of relative to the mix, Spooner was a -7.1 relative CF%. This figure means that Spooner’s CF% was 7.1 percent less than the team average. So, when the former Boston Bruin was on the ice, the Rangers were creating less than 40 percent of the scoring chances in the game.

It’s pretty obvious that Quinn was having trouble finding a place for Spooner in the lineup which ultimately made this trade come to fruition. As an established veteran at age 26, there was no higher level for the forward to get to at this point in his career. Late bloomers do happen, but Spooner has shown no signs of becoming anything more than a slightly above average player.

The context

Trading for Strome does more than just take a round peg out of a square hole, it proves that Gorton has an idea as to what type of moves he should be making as the G.M. of a rebuilding team. The former Edmonton Oiler only has two years remaining on his deal before reaching unrestricted free agency.

At $3.1 million per season Strome is a low-cost risk worth taking. Although the forward has failed to capture his early career success with the New York Islanders, there are underlying numbers that indicate it is not entirely his fault. Strome was a +3.2 CF% relative with the Oilers, meaning that he was 3.2 percent better than the team average at creating scoring chances.

So, at least in theory, Strome should be able to serve as a higher end version of Spooner and add a right-handed shot to the mix. This is the type of player that successful teams take a flyer on and either cut bait with minimal cost or luck itself into a quality depth player. The fact that Gorton was able to turn a negative into at least a net neutral is a good move.

Will Strome be a Ranger in two or three years when the team is ready to contend again? That remains to be seen, but at the very least he should be an improvement over Spooner.

So, if Gorton continues to take small risks in hopes of adding depth pieces to the core of the team, he’s doing his job. Low risk and low-cost players in need of a change of scenery litter good teams every single spring. Adding Strome to an overachieving Rangers team is the right idea for an experimental season.