The Arizona Coyotes have officially moved on from the Dylan Strome experience.
A little over three years after making him the third overall pick in the 2015 draft (right behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel), the Coyotes traded the 21-year-old Strome to the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday night.
The Coyotes also sent forward Brendan Perlini to Chicago as part of the trade.
In exchange for those two Arizona will receive forward Nick Schmaltz.
First, here is Coyotes general manager John Chayka on what he sees in Schmaltz and where he might fit.
“Nick is a dynamic forward with top line potential. We feel he can be a core player of our team now and into the future. He’s a good complement to our evolving forward group and a rare combination of speed, skill and creativity.”
There is a lot to unwrap here, but let’s start with Chicago’s acquisition of Strome because — and with all due respect to Schmaltz and Perlini — he is going to be the player that makes or breaks this trade. For both teams.
It is a total boom-or-bust move for the Blackhawks because even with his struggles in Arizona he is still a player that is loaded with potential. He has excelled at every level he has played at (including the American Hockey League where he had 53 points in 50 games a season ago), but had not yet found a place or a permanent role with the Coyotes.
In 48 NHL games over parts of the past three seasons he has just seven goals and nine assists, including six points in 19 games with the Coyotes this season.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this deal for Chicago is the fact that it reunites Strome with winger Alex DeBrincat. The two were teammates together with the Erie Otters during their junior hockey days and absolutely ripped apart the Ontario Hockey League offensively. Together, they were unstoppable. There is obviously a massive difference between the OHL and the NHL, but the two clearly have a history together.
DeBrincat, a second-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2016, has already developed into a top-line NHL player and was one of the top rookies in the league a season ago. He is off to another strong start this season with 10 goals and eight assists in his first 24 games.
Will those two get a chance to play together again in Chicago? Will a change of scenery help Strome start to establish himself as an NHL player and realize his potential? Big questions, but probably a worthy gamble if you are a Chicago team that really needs to find more young, impact players given the age of their core and the perpetual struggle that is their salary cap situation.
That brings us to Schmaltz.
He was one of the few bright spots for the Blackhawks a year ago when he scored 21 goals (good enough for third on the team) in what was a breakout season. The red flag in that performance, however, was the 17.8 percent shooting percentage that drove that goal-scoring success.
So far this season the regression monster has taken a giant bite out of his numbers.
As of Sunday, Schmaltz has just two goals (and nine assists) in 23 games for the Blackhawks and has been unable to find any of the good fortunate that followed him around a year ago. Has he been a little snake bit? With a 6.1 percent shooting percentage it would be easy to say yes, but the unfortunate reality for him is that number is probably a lot closer to what should be expected from him.
He is also a restricted free agent after this season and will be in line for a pay raise.
Strome, on the other hand, is still signed through next season at a salary cap hit of $863,333.
Perlini, who had scored 31 goals in his first 131 NHL games, will also be a restricted free agent for the Blackhawks after this season.
What it all boils down to is this…
• Schmaltz has probably, by a very thin margin, been the most successful of these three players at the NHL level. But he is probably not as good as his numbers from the 2017-18 season might indicate.
He and Perlini are also very similar in the sense that they are the same age, have the same contract situation, and have nearly identical goal-scoring numbers throughout the first two-and-a-half years of their careers. Just consider that Perlini has scored 33 goals in 152 career games (with two in 21 games this season), while Schmaltz has scored 29 goals in 162 career games (with two in 23 games this season).
Schmaltz has better assist numbers, but he has also played alongside superior talent in Chicago.
• Strome, as disappointing as he has been at the NHL level, still has what is by far the highest upside and is still young enough that he could break out if things click for him.
The Blackhawks are basically trading what will probably be a pretty good player for another pretty good player … and a potential star if they can catch lightning in a bottle.
What is not to like about that if you are the Blackhawks?
It is far from a guarantee to work, but it is a fine chance to take.
This is the fourth trade these two teams have made since the summer of 2017.
Then, just before the start of this season the Coyotes took on the remainder of Marian Hossa‘s contract in a massive, complex trade that also saw Marcus Kruger return to Chicago and Vinnie Hinostroza go to Arizona.