April 14, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman (32) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the first period in game two of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
As the offseason continues to plow through the start of summer, we're going to start talking about which free agents the New York Rangers should look into keeping or letting walk. First up is an interesting case: defenseman Anton Stralman.
Stralman was a mid-season defensive replacement for the Rangers, and was essentially viewed as just a much-needed extra pair of wheels at the back. Before long, however, he was opening up eyes, making impressive plays in the offensive zone and playing solid in his own end to boot. That honeymoon lasted for a few months before Stralman started to lose his touch and was benched in favor of rookie Tim Erixon.
But as the Rangers inched closer to the playoffs John Tortorella became less and less comfortable with the idea of having Erixon play in the postseason. So instead, he send Erixon back down to the AHL (where he continued to thrive) and brought Stralman back for the playoffs. Which, incidentally, is where Stralman makes this a harder question to answer.
Join me after the jump for more.
In the playoffs Stralman was a pretty big contributor to the Rangers' success. Stralman was involved in the offensive zone (he scored three goals in the postseason) and madea few jaw-dropping defensive plays to help keep the Rangers alive in their many, many one-goal games. There were times during the playoffs when he was one of the best defenseman on the ice, there we also times when he was in the middle of the pack. Want to know what he was rarely? A culprit. Granted, he was on the third pairing for most of the playoffs, but he still averaged over 16 minutes a game in the 20 playoff games he suited up for.
So let me pose the question: Do you want to keep Anton Stralman? Do you want Glen Sather to sit down with him and negotiate? Or do you want the Rangers to thank him for his services and move on?
It's not an easy question. It's also a little harder to answer when you look at the Rangers' defensive depth. Erixon is expected to make the team out of camp next year. Dylan McIlrath is potentially a year away. Can the Rangers get Stralman to sign a shorter contract (one or two years) rather than look for a longer deal elsewhere?
Does Stralman even want to play in the NHL next year? Stralman told the media that he loves New York but he needs to make the right decision for his family. Will the Rangers want to persuade him to stay with more dollars? Is he worth it?
This situation parallels with the Mats Zuccarello one in which Zuccarello (a RFA) left to go to another league (the KHL) and the Rangers earned no compensation. Stralman is also a restricted free agent, and if he seems like he wants to play for another NHL team the Rangers could trade his rights (unlikely) but more than likely the Rangers are his only NHL desire.
Either way, is it worth the trouble to keep him around?