During the 2021-22 NHL season, Rangers general manager Chris Drury swung for the fences during last year’s trade deadline. Additions like Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp, and Tyler Motte helped solidify and balance New York’s offensive attack, while also providing the necessary experience needed to make a deep Stanley Cup playoff run.
But as is the case with making gambles with rental players, the Rangers said goodbye to almost all of their trade deadline acquisitions and then some.
For the first time in the 2022-23 NHL season, the Rangers will have not one but two key pieces to last season’s playoff run return when the Anaheim Ducks invade Madison Square Garden: Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome.
Vatrano, after being traded to the Rangers from Florida, tallied 13 points in 22 regular season games. He was fourth on the team in goals scored in the playoffs though with five: his biggest coming in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
While Vatrano’s emergence in the Rangers lineup was key to their playoff success last season, Ryan Strome’s work as a leader on and off the ice was felt since he came to New York via a trade for Ryan Spooner in 2018.
A part of the early stages of the Rangers rebuild, Strome was reflective on the magical run the team went on last season from where they were years ago.
“When I look back at the last four years, if I were to know that this was how it turned out for me and the team, I think we would have been really with that four years ago,” Ryan Strome said to reporters before Monday’s contest.
Strome was a consistent offensive force in New York during his four-year run with the team. Last season alone came Strome’s best offensive season where he set a career-high in goals (21) and playoff points (9).
The former first-round pick understood how far he had come to get to this point.
“I came here with pretty limited expectations, and I feel like I revived my career and it was a great relationship for the team and myself. Nothing but good thoughts and it was great to see some of the guys already.” Strome explained.
Strome signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks on July 13, 2022. Vatrano on the other hand signed a 3-year, $10,950,000 deal with the Ducks as well. The loss of both Strome and Vatrano did not come as a surprise though to the team, or the players themselves.
“The last day was very emotional. After what we’ve gone through as a team, it was a tough day. I’m happy with the way things went. As I said, there’s nothing but good thoughts and it was a great run.” Strome added.
New York was quick to replace the #16 worn by Strome over the last few years when they inked a deal with Vincent Trocheck. Watching his former number being used by a different player may be odd for Strome, but it doesn’t change the team he is facing on Monday.
“It was a little weird, but I feel like I watch the Rangers and I know what to expect…(they) have a great team and they’re gonna have a great year,” Strome said.
Both Strome and Vatrano were key cogs to the Rangers’ playoff run last season. That isn’t lost by the coaching staff of New York either.
“He had fun. He’s a good teammate and a good player. I didn’t know Strome until last year but I enjoyed him beyond around.” Gerard Gallant told reporters.
A video tribute and ovation await Ryan Strome’s return to Madison Square Garden in what will be another chance for the current roster to show the next step in their growth to championship contenders.