Blackhawks’ Dylan Strome can relax and wait for clarification on the future with the deadline passed
LOS ANGELES — Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome had an “idea,” based on his excellent play over the past few months, as well as what he had heard, that he would not be traded at Monday’s deadline. . He was right.
”[Based on] the way it’s going, playing well and playing good minutes. . . I wasn’t too stressed about it,” he said on Tuesday. ”Obviously, I followed everything and [saw] some big trades. It’s interesting to watch and see what happens. I was comfortable.”
Not only was Strome not traded, but one of his closest childhood friends and favorite junior hockey teammates — Taylor Raddysh — came to the Hawks on a term deal. It couldn’t have gone better.
And now, after dealing with constant trade rumors “for a few years”, Strome can finally relax and enjoy some clarity about his off-ice fate.
As the deadline has passed, he cannot be traded for the rest of this season. And as a restricted free agent pending this summer with arbitration rights — which adds more power and influence to his bargaining position — he’ll know if the Hawks come to him with his 3.6 qualifying offer. million by the July 9 deadline, they definitely intend to re-sign him.
And if they don’t, he’ll know he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on July 13, that he can mentally leave the Hawks and find a team that values him more.
Either way, there is clarity, which he lacked in 2020 as a restricted free agent with no right to arbitrate. His negotiations dragged on through the fall of that year before he finally signed just before training camp.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. ”Obviously it’s a bit different negotiation than last time with arbitration. [It’s] something I have never experienced before. There is a deadline set, compared to two years ago — [that] feels like a long time ago. But I think it’s a little easier that way. . . . It’s better when you have a date and you know I have to do something at a certain time.”
A few months ago, it looked like Strome’s qualifying bid threshold was going to be an issue. His production had dropped so sharply that $3.6 million would have been an overpayment.
Now that will no longer be the case. Strome might even get a raise, either from the Hawks or another team in free agency. His second-period assist in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Kings gave him 38 points in 52 games this season — and 31 points in 30 games since Jan. 4.
He’ll top his 2019-20 output — his final year on contract — when he had 38 points in 58 games, and he’s not far off his 51-point 58-game pace from his explosive first season in Chicago. .
The question remains whether Strome really fits into the Hawks rebuild. He has shown that he can only play in the middle and is only productive when playing alongside talented players, so he basically needs a top-six spot in the middle.
And keeping Strome in the top six at center next season means Kirby Dach or Lukas Reichel, arguably the two most important forwards for the Hawks’ future, would be relegated to the wing or third line. It wouldn’t be ideal.
Not ideal either, letting Strome walk away for nothing after his resurgent winter and spring and after keeping him at the trade deadline.
But for the first time in a long time, that’s an enigma for another day. Strome can finally push it to the back of his head and just focus on hockey.
”Winning must be the main thing on all of our minds [as we] play these  games and just have fun,” Strome said. ”A lot of these guys are going to be back next year. [We’ve] must build this team identity, which we have been working on.”