Ryan Strome, the newest Ranger, acquired Friday from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade for Ryan Spooner, had just played his first game for the Rangers, a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden, and here he was, being interviewed in the postgame locker room, and he couldn’t seem to stop smiling. He had to be just giddy with exhaustion, given the emotional and physical whirlwind he’d just experienced over the previous 30 or so hours.
The 6-1, 194-pound forward had just finished practice Friday with his Edmonton Oilers team, and was preparing to head south for a battle with provincial rival Calgary when he was told he’d been traded. He wasn’t told to whom, so the next 10 or so minutes he was in this weird limbo, knowing he was on his way out of Edmonton, but not knowing where he was headed.
“I texted my parents and my dad was trying to call me,’’ Strome recalled. “I’m like, ‘Dad, I don’t have any details, so I can’t really tell you anything.’ But, yeah, it’s a bit of a shock. I’m on my way to a road game, you just finished practice and you’re kind of preparing for the game, and, boom, you’re packing up suitcases a couple hours later.’’
Of course, it helps a little that Strome, 24, is relatively familiar with New York, having played parts of four seasons for the Islanders, who drafted him in the first round, fifth overall, in 2011. He got welcome back texts from friends in the area after the trade, and he got some texts from his old Islanders teammates as well, giving him the business for now becoming a member of their crosstown rival. He’ll see those ex-teammates on Thursday, when the Rangers host the Islanders at the Garden.
Strome scored 45 goals and 126 points in 258 games for the Islanders, but he was traded in the summer of 2017 for Jordan Eberle. Strome scored 13 goals and 34 points in 82 games for the Oilers in 2017-18, but in 18 games this season, he had only one goal and one assist.
“I think my play was better than my points indicated,’’ he said when asked what was going on in Edmonton this season. “I think I was doing a lot of good things, but it’s a business there. They’re in a really 'win-now mode' and they’re really desperate. You know, with a couple of the best players in the world, like they have on their team, there’s a lot of pressure, and at the end of the day, our line was just struggling to score.’’
Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was asked why he thought Strome had not lived up to expectations to this point.
“I think, at times, if he’s had any issues, it’s that he puts a lot of pressure on himself, based on where he was taken,’’ Gorton said. “For us, we didn’t draft him fifth overall. We’re anxious to get him in the lineup to see what he can do for us. We know he has skill, he’s put some points, in his past, on the board, but I think we’re looking for a 200-foot player that comes every day to work and can help us in all different situations.’’
Notes & quotes: The Rangers recalled forward Steven Fogarty from AHL Hartford on Sunday night. Fogarty, 25, has seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 19 games with the Wolf Pack this season. Earlier in the day the Rangers assigned right wing Vinni Lettieri to Hartford. Lettieri, 23, appeared in 14 games as a fourth-line player and did not have a goal or an assist.