Johnny Gaudreau and Claude Giroux made all the headlines in free agency – but Dylan Strome may be the best bargain signing.

When gauging the free agent market, teams need to be careful.

Offering a player too much term or full no-move or no-trade clauses could come back to haunt. 

This is because players tend to get worse as they age.

But this isn’t the same case with Strome, who is signing a one-year deal reportedly worth $3.5 million with the Washington Capitals.

Typically to become a free agent, the player must have played in the NHL for seven years or must be 27 years or older.

Strome is a rarer case.

The 25-year-old center was likely let go because the Chicago Blackhawks have their site sets at the top players in next year’s draft, which features projected first-overall-pick Connor Bedard.

Although former third-overall-pick Strome is set to play for his third NHL team already, the Ontario, Canadian native has only gotten better. 

Last season, playing in the Blackhawk’s top-six, Strome registered 48 points in 69 games. 

That’s a massive improvement from his 17 points in just 40 games played in the previous year, as Strome then struggled with injuries. 

Also, his underlying metrics were solid. 

Strome has a projected wins above replacement (WAR) percentage of 83%, according to data from NHL analytics site JFreshHockey

WAR measures a player’s total contribution to a team. 

For the Capitals, it was a rare opportunity to claim a young promising player without surrendering any assets. 

Strome will now be given the chance to potentially play on a line with Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin.

An even sweeter part of the deal for the Capitals is Strome will be a restricted free agent next year. 

So, if the organization wishes, it will have team control for another year and can tender Strome. 

But there is a challenge that lies ahead for the Capitals. 

According to CapFriendly, the team is now more than $6 million over the cap.

It’s possible that the Capitals may have a few players that will start the season on long-term injury reserve (LTIR).

That would buy it some extra time because those players wouldn’t count against the cap as long as they are on the list. 

For example, 35-year-old Nicklas Backstrom, who carries a cap charge of $9.2 million is one candidate for (LTIR). 

Backstrom has a hip injury that has been described as “chronic.”

His hockey future remains cloudy. 

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