In just a matter of two years, Anton Stralman turned his career around. During his time with the New York Rangers, him and Marc Staal have created a solid second line of defense behind Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. But as free agency is around the corner with the Rangers needing to lock up 11 players, GM Glen Sather should show Stralman the door.
Before the Rangers, Stralman was a journeyman. The 27-year-old has played for three NHL teams (Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets), was traded twice during the 2009 season and didn’t make tryouts for the New Jersey Devils.
After this year, it’s not shocking Stralman is looking for $4-5 million per year and stability for his family. But the Rangers don’t have the cap room to give a former journeyman that much because of a risk he could go back to his old ways. In fact, the defense is partially to blame for why the Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Stralman was one of the bright points on defense, but keep in mind this was a contract year. There have been plenty of players who play their hearts out during a contract year only to cash out and play mediocre the rest of their careers. New York has already given out enough bad contracts in Sather’s tenure, including Brad Richards and Michal Rozsival.
He’s also expendable because of the Rangers’ farm system. There is a good amount of young defensemen the Rangers could call up to replace Stralman. The first move would be pairing up Kevin Klein with Staal on the second line and maybe using a combination of Conor Allen, Raphael Diaz and Dylan McIlrath on the third line. The Blueshirts lack physicality (check out the hits numbers in the Stanley Cup), and these three young men could add an extra punch.
Stralman became a fan favorite during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that was a fluke performance. He’s not worth the money he’s asking for, and any team that coughs up that money better be ready to bite their lips in disappointment.