Florida Panthers: Looking at Anton Stralman’s Possible Pros & Cons

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 6: Anton Stralman #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is introduced before the home opener against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on October 6, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 6: Anton Stralman #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is introduced before the home opener against the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on October 6, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

On Monday, the Florida Panthers made veteran defenseman Anton Stralman their second free agent signing of 2019, leaving a lot of mixed reaction amongst fans.

This was an issue that I’d talked about months leading up to free agency. The Florida Panthers’ biggest issues last season came on the blue line, and there wasn’t a great selection of defensemen to pick from.

Erik Karlsson re-signed with San Jose and New York traded for RFA Jacob Trouba before July 1st. Jake Gardiner remains unsigned (at time of writing) and Tyler Myers was looking for long-term security, getting a five-year contract with Vancouver.

This left Anton Stralman, a sturdy, old-fashioned defenseman as the best remaining option on the market. Stralman emerged as a quality defenseman as part of the Rangers and grew as one of the regular faces in Tampa Bay’s defensive core over their last few successful seasons.

Stralman ranked as the 16th best free agent in the class by NHL Network, joins from Tampa Bay after five years of service for the Bolts. He had 130 points (29G & 101A) across 355 games for Tampa Bay, a net +80 in plus-minus, averaging 21:53 minutes of ice time per night.

With that, Florida made sure to improve on the blue line by locking up the Swedish defenseman to a three-year, $16.5 million dollar contract work $5.5 million annually. Stralman’s contract expires in the 2023 offseason, in line with Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Frank Vatrano, and Noel Acciari.

Here’s what Panthers GM Dale Tallon had to say about the incoming defenseman:

"“Anton is a veteran two-way defenseman who plays solid hockey and brings a wealth of experience and leadership to our lineup. His knowledge of the game and winning mentality will be a valuable asset for our young defensemen.”"

“Young defenseman” may imply to Mike Matheson, who Tallon alluded to starting with Stralman in training camp.

While Matheson needs someone next to him like Stralman, I’d think that Joel Quenneville evolves Stralman to play with Keith Yandle or Aaron Ekblad to allow them to have more influence offensively.

That’s the first big pro with Stralman. He’s someone who could fit right into this team if the signing works as imagined for Tallon.

Stralman’s always been solid analytically and is well-disciplined, taking no more than 13 penalties over a course of a season as a member of the Lightning.

Stralman has no fear to get down and dirty for the good of his team. With 419 blocks and 474 hits for Tampa, he should provide some solid grit in the Panthers’ defensive core that really lacks a guy of his type. He recorded 131 takeaways and had just 16 giveaways in his final season with the Bolts.

Stralman also comes in as the Panthers’ best defenseman for shorthanded situations. Tampa Bay used him and Ryan McDonagh as their top pair on the penalty kill last season, and he’ll definitely assume that same role with the Cats.

A sneaky bonus in Stralman’s game is his influence on the power play. He wasn’t anywhere near a first choice, with Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev taking on the majority of the minutes on the man advantage, but Stralman did tally 30 of his 101 assists on the power play.

His impact could be felt in the locker room and on the ice as a leader. He’s been in a winning culture for this entire decade, whether in New York or Tampa Bay, and he can help influence this winning culture in South Florida.

He’s never faced any kinds of “locker room cancer” labels from any of his four NHL teams and could be a very big figure for a lot of the Panthers’ young core both on and off the ice.

Now, let’s talk cons, and if you follow Panthers Twitter, there were a lot of them. For starters, Stralman is on the wrong side of thirty.

He will be 33 when the season begins and 36 when his contract ends. To expect valuable top-four quality next season is the norm, but expecting this from all three seasons is unreasonable.

It’s not impossible as some defenseman are able to stay efficient into their middle thirties, but a physical guy like Stralman may struggle.

Stralman is also coming off a foot injury that saw him miss 35 games last season. While he only missed just 20 games since 2013, the injury is a lot more worrisome now at his older age.

Finally, the issue that most people were upset about is the contract that was given. The contract makes Stralman the third-highest paid defenseman on the team at 32 (to be 33 in August) at $5.5 million in AAV, a pay rise of around $750,000.

This contract has the potential to be a terrible deal towards the end of his contract. Next season, Florida will have Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman hitting the open markets as UFAs (as well as Henrik Borgstrom as an RFA), and will have roughly $14 million to bring them back.

Next. Brett Connolly Improves the Third Line. dark

Stralman’s contract limits the Panthers’ cap flexibility going forward, but the Panthers may have landed the guy they needed to push deep into the playoffs.