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Strome Talks Joining Capitals, Fresh Start In D.C.: ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’

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Capitals center Dylan Strome

It’s Thursday, July 14. Dylan Strome is out and about after spending the first day of free agency waiting by the phone at home. As he’s driving down the first fairway at a golf course, he gets a phone call from his agent. He has an offer: a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals.

Strome is a stranger to the free agency game. It’s a place that’s been uncharted territory for him in his young career. The Capitals had reached out a few times already, along with many other clubs. For him, though, D.C. is the best landing spot, and he calls it a done deal.

“I think it was a process I never really expected to go through this early,” Strome admitted, adding, “There was 31 others teams where I could have gone to or wanted me, I guess I should say. It was a crazy couple of days… I’m very excited and very fortunate that a team like Washington reached out and I couldn’t be happier to get started.”

Strome is coming off a career year with the Chicago Blackhawks, one that he felt earned him a qualifying offer. He dished a career-high 22 goals and 48 points for his most productive season since 2018-19. Following his standout campaign, the 25-year-old was a hot commodity on the market. After all, he was the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, still has upside and brings playmaking ability and goal-scoring to the table.

For Strome, though, the Capitals were the most appealing destination, and he said he feels that Washington will provide him with the best chance to take his game to the next level — and of course, to win.

“I think the way they play… they obviously have the championship pedigree, I think. I haven’t played in the playoffs in the NHL — I’m not sure if we count the bubble as playoffs — but got to play a few games there. Obviously, there was no crow,  so it wasn’t the same. But I think just everything about their team, like I said, the way they play, their style of game, I think it fits into my game really good. Obviously, some great wingers to play with as well. So I think you add all those factors in and obviously a good team that makes the playoffs almost every year. I think it’s very exciting.”

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Looking at his style of play, the 6-3, 200-pound center brings size, speed and a high hockey IQ to the table. He is a scorer and strong playmaker who can also provide a spark on the power play. His addition to the lineup is vital for the Capitals with Nicklas Backstrom out long-term and Tom Wilson not returning until at least December.

Beyond that, Strome added that he wants to take on more responsibility as a trusted two-way center who can play a shutdown game in his own end.

“I’ve turned into a little bit more reliable than maybe I was at the beginning of my career defensively,” Strome said. “I think I was put into some situations last year where I’d take some face-offs in the defensive zone at key times in games. My face-off numbers got better last year and looking to improve on that this year. So really excited about that. Obviously, I like to produce offense, like to help on the power play where that may be. Usually it’s in front of the net or down low, I think that’s where I’m at my best… when I have the puck on my stick trying to find the open guy, I think that’s when I’m at my best.”

Not only will Strome get a chance to build on his skillset and continue evolving his game, but he will also get the opportunity to find consistency and perhaps establish himself as a full-time player in D.C. At the end of this one-year deal, he will become an RFA again, and this time, he’ll look to lock down that qualifying offer.

“I felt like I played my way into getting a qualifying offer [this past season] but with the way that the Blackhawks are trending… I’m not going to say I was surprised at the decision,” Strome admitted, adding, “I’m really excited to join such a great organization and a team that is in the playoffs pretty much every year. Just to have that opportunity and that new challenge, I think that’s something every player looks forward to and is excited about.”

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While he explained this would be his first time joining a brand-new club right at the start of the season, he is already familiar with quite a few faces. He played with new signees Darcy Kuemper back in Arizona and Henrik Borgstrom in Chicago. His captain during his time with the OHL’s Erie Otters was no other than Connor Brown. Wilson, his former workout partner a few years back, has already reached out, along with other teammates to welcome him to Washington.

“Happy to be on his side of the ice this time,” Strome joked, also adding that he was excited to play with an idol in captain Alex Ovechkin. “It’s something that you watch as a kid growing up. Everyone knows what he can do with his shot. His playmaking ability is also incredible. He’s a superstar and I think it’d be an honor to play with him, just to be on the same team as him. He’s scored a few goals against us in the past and my team in the past. So I’m happy to be on that side of the ice this time.”

At the end of the day, though, Strome knows he’ll have to work for ice time and top-6 opportunities. The Capitals are dealing with an influx of forwards and several questions regarding the future. So in the end, he just wants to show that he is a top option and can find that consistency and star power that made him a top prospect just a few years back. And, just as importantly, he wants to find somewhere to call home for a bit.

“It gives me a real drive for the summer to be at my best going into the season and to show what I can do, to show they made a good choice in signing me,” Strome said.

“When you have a good support system at home and you have good guys on the team, the outside noise is just like noise,” he continued, adding, “It’s not fun when you’re in and out of the lineup and things like that. But I felt like my game’s really been going in a good place at the end of last year… I’ll build on that, and look forward to doing that in Washington.”

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