The Tampa Bay Lightning made good use with some of the cap space they recently cleared by signing one of the top defensive defensemen on the market. Anton Stralman signed with the club on a five-year, $22.5 million deal for an annual average of $4.5 million as ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported.
Stralman is coming off a fantastic season in which he was a vital part of the New York Rangers Stanley Cup runner up team. The defense-first Stralman had a goal and 12 assists for the Rangers last season, while averaging just under 20 minutes a game.
Unlike the prototypical defensive defensemen in the NHL, Stralman is not big or bruising. He gets by on strong mobility, smart positioning and a good stick to defend. He also moves the puck well despite his lower-than-average point total.
Last season, according to BehindTheNet.ca, Stralman posted an 11.2 relative corsi that indicates when he was on the ice the Rangers had the puck an awful lot. As a result, Stralman had many fans in the advanced stats community and also apparently in the Lightning.
The deal looks great for Tampa Bay as it strengthens a defensive corps that recently added Jason Garrison via trade from the Vancouver Canucks and already includes a terrific No. 1 Dman in Victor Hedman and a solid puck-mover in Matt Carle. The Lightning's top four just got a heck of a lot better and if Radko Gudas and Eric Brewer slot into the last D pairing, most teams would love that kind of set up and goaltender Ben Bishop should, too.
This is quite a raise for Stralman who made an average of $1.7 million over his last deal. The weak defenseman market made him an attractive commodity and a $4 million-plus annual payday seemed a given.
This is another great move for Steve Yzerman to not overspend on the top available and make a reasonable offer to a defenseman that is going to help, but not change the face of the franchise. He made a series of moves to create the space to make an impact add when he dealt away Teddy Purcell and B.J. Crombeen in separate trades earlier in the week and now Stralman is part of the payoff.
If one thing was proved last season, the Lightning needed to get better on defense. They did incredibly well to land one of the more sought-after defensive defensemen while keeping the club well clear of the cap. Yzerman continues to impress in his role as a progressive-thinking general manager.