In his first season with the Florida Panthers, defenseman Stralman will be expected to bring defensive stability on the back end.
Over the years, Anton Stralman has been regarded as one of the more neat and tidy defenders throughout the NHL.
His defensive play with the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning were at its peak during that time frame of his career, but with injuries playing a major role in his current decline, Stralman will look to remain healthy with the Florida Panthers this season.
With that said, his role (unlike previous years) will have to be limited in certain aspects. He’s no longer capable of handling the first-pairing role, and instead, will be expected to play on the right side of the second pairing.
His likely defense partner will be Mike Matheson, who the Panthers will expect to bounce back after a dreadful 2018-19 campaign. Stralman, who plays as a stay-at-home defenseman, will be in charge of providing Matheson with the proper support (defensively), as well as with a safety net for insurance purposes.
Basically, Stralman was brought in to not only provide further stability to what’s been a rather shaky backline but to also upgrade the right-handed spot on the second pairing.
Originally, it was Mark Pysyk who occupied that spot, playing alongside Matheson. However, over the last two years especially, Pysyk has failed to provide Matheson with any suitable support, leaving him to dry defensively on many occasions.
With that noted, Dale Tallon went out and began his search on the open market for a new right-handed defenseman. But what he soon realized is that the options for defensemen on the open market this summer were quite limited, and decided to take a gamble on an older Stralman.
Of course, no one (including myself) would deny that Stralman’s game has declined over the past couple of seasons, especially defensively. But what’s key to note here is that Tallon didn’t want to enter the season with Matheson and Pysyk forming as a pair (for yet another year).
He knew that he needed to get the young Matheson back on track, and for that to happen, he decided that it was best to entirely abandon the Matheson-Pysyk pairing, bringing in the 33-year-old.
For the Panthers to get the best use out of the Swedish defenseman, they’re going to have to provide him with favorable matchups and deploy him solely as a stay-at-home defenseman who provides a safety net for the offensive-minded Matheson.
This not only allows Matheson to do his thing offensively (which we’ve seen before), but it limits the unfavorable situations that Stralman just can’t handle at this stage of his career.
The Panthers have Stralman locked up on a three-year contract, investing $5.5M (annually) in him – a good amount for a defenseman who’s in decline.
For this marriage to work, the Panthers cannot expect Stralman to solve all their defensive problems. They can only (and should only) expect him to focus primarily on the pairing he’s assigned to play on, focusing on providing Matheson with defensive stability.
Anton Stralman is only one piece to the puzzle that will help solve the defensive issues the Panthers have experienced over the last few seasons. He isn’t a major upgrade, but he’s a step in the right direction as the Panthers look to have a defensively sound season this year.