When Ryan Strom left New York for Southern California this summer, he didn’t have a home for sale. He and his family were renting, so they made sure the new tenant was familiar, and handed the keys to Adam Fox.
Until the end, that was Ström’s period as a bouncer. He was part of the leadership group. He has struggled with injuries, even when it was not financially advisable to do so as a suspended free agent in Game 6 of last season’s Conference Finals. Search for teammates.
The Rangers were ultimately unable to keep Ström due to their cap crunch over the summer, and replaced him with the free agent who signed Vincent Trochek. That’s why, even though Strom said on the day of the breakup that his heart was in New York, he’ll be coming out of the visitor tunnel Monday night at Madison Square Garden with the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s probably going to be weird, but not emotional,” Strom said after Friday afternoon’s Anaheim practice at the Prudential Center.
Strom helped take care of the Rangers by rebuilding them, which officially began with The Letter, six months before his acquisition in a trade that sent Ryan Spooner to Edmonton. Between Broadway and Long Island, where he enlisted and spent the first four seasons of his career, Strom grew up in New York. But it’s the Rangers who will remember him most, because the team he grew up with.
“I think for me that was exactly where we got where we got,” Strom said. “I was there a little while after the message came out, they started tearing up a little bit. I saw a lot of change, but I think the core group of us was kind of there and pulling ourselves out of the basement a little bit was a great feeling.”
“We put in a lot of work, not only on the ice but also on the ice and making it a good environment, good culture and good dynamics in the locker room. And I think seeing that it pays off last year we feel a bit short, but seeing the hard work pay off a little bit. And taking the next step was a really good feeling. That’s probably the thing I’ll remember the most.”
Strom’s contributions as assistant Artemi Panarin, who scored 54 points last season as part of the second streak, will not soon be forgotten by Rangers fans. Last season’s march to the Conference Finals was the culmination of three seasons of work, at least for Strom, who won’t be around to see if Rangers take the next steps this season. He said he hasn’t spoken to Rangers over the summer. Strom turned down an offer from the Blueshirts earlier in the year according to The Post’s Larry Brooks.
“For me and my family, this is a great option,” he said. “We have a great little house in California near the beach and it lives really well. A great group of guys here, we have a really good thing here, I think.”
Already, he’s made an impact with the Ducks, scoring a goal and two assists in the 5-4 win over the Kraken on opening night in Anaheim. Head coach Dallas Aikins said that after captain Ryan Gettislav retired at the end of last season, Strom helped fill the void.
“He brought in some leadership,” said Eakins. “He brings a real sense of calm. He brings a right center man that we desperately need in certain situations. And he brings some humiliation.”
And in a growing team that includes rising stars in Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Jimmy Drysdale, Strom sees an opportunity to repeat what he did with the Rangers.
“A lot of the things I mentioned at Rangers a couple of years ago, we kind of have here,” he said. “We have a lot of good guys, there are two veterans, and there are a great goalkeeper [John Gibson]. There are a lot of cuttings that you can’t really grow on trees. …some of the same things we preached with the Rangers and we’ll see what happens.”