Q&A: Dylan Strome on his time with Blackhawks and new chapter in Washington

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Q&A: Strome on time with Hawks, new chapter in Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Dylan Strome probably expected to be in Chicago for a long time, but the organization went in a different direction this offseason as it embarks on a longer-term rebuild and he eventually signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Washington Capitals after not being tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Strome opened up about his time with the Blackhawks and how things ended, what he'll miss most about the city of Chicago, what it was like to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NHL career, and why he chose the Capitals to be his new home.

Here is the full transcript from the Q&A, which has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity:

Dylan, I know it's been a busy time for you. How would you describe your emotions over these last few weeks?

Yeah, I think it's something that I wasn't really expecting to go through this early, but at the same time, with where Chicago was trending and what their plans are for the future, I don't think I was exactly surprised with everything that happened. It's a business and they made a business decision and that's kind of the way it is.

I'm excited to go to Washington, a team that saw value in me and wanted me to be a part of the team. At the end of the day, I'm really looking forward to it. I did love my time in Chicago, of course. It's an amazing city and a great team to play for and I had a lot of good memories there. I had my first child there, so many good memories, almost too many to count. I started my family and everything, kind of grew up a little bit.

Chicago, obviously, will forever hold a place in my heart, but at the same time, like I said, it's a business and you've got to adapt on the fly. I had about three or four days to adapt because that's when I found out, so you kind of just take things in stride. I guess that's the life of a pro hockey player and you move on. I'm looking forward to this next opportunity.

There were rumors towards the end of the season that you probably wouldn't be back. When you saw those, were you surprised by them? How did you take that at the time?

It's a little bit, I mean, it's frustrating, of course, because you think that you have a good season and you put all this effort and hard work and everything into a team, like you work so hard to be on a team and to make them want you and then they kind of just let you go. It's definitely not fun to hear for anyone. I don't think anyone wants to hear that you don't get qualified, but at the same time, new opportunities arise and you've got to adapt on the fly.

But I think with everything that happened, I'm really looking forward to this opportunity and a team that wanted me and sees value in me, and that's what I'm looking forward to and to get started.

What are you going to miss most about Chicago?

Oh man, there's a lot of things to miss. Of course, the food. Everyone knows about the food in Chicago, I think we're very fortunate where we get to go to some nice restaurants and eat pretty well. The food there is great.

And the guys on the team. Tazer, Kaner, Cat, of course. I got to play with so many guys that are Hall of Famers, let's be honest. I think I played with probably six Hall of Famers in my four years in Chicago, which is pretty crazy to think about. Duncs and maybe Seabs and maybe Cam Ward and Chris Kunitz, the list goes on and on, and Tazer and Kaner, obviously. And then who knows what can happen with the other guys on the team. I don't think I'm missing anybody right now, but you get to play with so many guys and experience it.

I think I've said this before, I was always a bit jealous of Cat that he got to play with such a storied franchise and so many great players in the Madhouse on Madison at the UC. There are so many things that of course you're going to miss and of course they were good times.

That building got rocking a few times. Obviously we never made the playoffs but we've had some good times. We were close my first year, we were like three or four points away, so I mean we kind of saw what those guys went through, obviously not to that extent, but you saw how loud that building can really get and I really did enjoy playing there.

My family liked it there, my parents came down a bunch of times, my fiance's parents came down a bunch of times. Everyone loves going to Chicago to watch a hockey game, I think that's just the way it is. There's a reason why they sell out almost every game. A lot of great memories there but I'm looking forward to making new ones.

Is it going to be weird not being able to play with Alex? You guys have kind of been tied at the hip basically for your whole hockey careers, it feels like.

*Laughs* Yeah, it's definitely going to be weird. We were joking the other day that if someone asks, we were just going to say we're both going to the nation's capital, but two different nation's capitals. Obviously, he's a great friend of mine. He was in my wedding party and I was in his, and we've kind of grown up together and we lived together for a little bit in junior. And then he took me in when I first got to Chicago, I lived with him for a couple of weeks before I got my own place.

So many good memories, and obviously our connection on the ice speaks for itself as to what we were able to do together, and with Patrick Kane, of course. It was one of my favorite lines, probably my favorite line I've ever played on — don't tell Taylor Raddysh. It's something I'm going to miss, for sure. They're two unbelievably good players and two really good friends. So, for sure, it's a little bit tough in that sense, but like I said before, that's pro hockey. I'll make new friends and new good linemates and we'll see where it goes from there.

To see Alex traded and then Kirby got traded at the draft, were you looking at those moves like, 'holy cow?' Were you surprised at the magnitude of the rebuild that Chicago is now going through?

When I saw the Kirby trade, you had heard rumors, but I was actually watching the draft and I didn't have my phone on me, so I'm sure it was out on Twitter a little bit before it was on TV. But I saw Gary Bettman and then when he said Chicago, I was kind of thinking maybe it was a draft pick to a draft pick or whatever, and then he announced that, I think everyone was taken aback a little bit by that, for sure.

Such a young player and obviously was so highly touted. I think he's still going to be a great player. I think he is a great player already. I think sometimes, like for myself, we're having a similar situation. Obviously he had a bit more success than I did from Arizona to Chicago, respectively, in the beginning parts of our careers, but I think he's going to get a fresh start and he's playing in a crazy hockey city and he's a Canadian boy, so lots to look forward to for him.

I'm sure you would have loved to be here in Chicago long term, but was a part of you kind of like, 'OK, I get to be a free agent for the first time, I get to choose my team?' Were you excited about going through that process?

Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I think people have a little bit of a preconceived notion that you can go to whatever team you want. That's not really how it works. You kind of go to what team wants you. It's almost like being traded, a little bit, in a sense where I wasn't a free agent that had my pick of all 32 teams. That's for certain, I did not have that.

That's the way things worked out, and Washington was able to get to a number that my agent felt was right for me and this stage and the one-year deal with restricted free agency at the end of this year, hopefully puts myself in a good spot and we'll see what happens. There's lots to obviously take into account over the course of a year but we felt like it was a good deal and one that was too good not to take.

That was going to be my last question. New chapter in Washington, what are you most looking forward to playing for the Capitals and why did you feel like that was a good fit for you?

Well, there's a pretty good player there in Alex Ovechkin. *Laughs* And I think just the team, the way they play, I feel like I love the way they play and how they possess the puck and the way they control the game. Obviously I don't watch them all the time, but when we played against them or anything like that, you see the way they play, they're offensive and they don't give up too many chances, and with the moves they made this summer, I think that really gives them a good shot.

I think there's definitely things to look forward to. They've made the playoffs ... I don't remember the last time they've missed the playoffs and it's something that I'm looking forward to, hopefully being on a competitive team. New city, new friends, new teammates, new linemates, new coaches. Lots of new, but I think I'm ready for it, I'm excited for it and I'm really looking forward to it.

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