The Pittsburgh Penguins freed up cash Saturday night when they traded Phil Kessel to Arizona for Alex Galchenyuk and prospect defenseman Pierre Olivier Joseph. The move gave the Penguins enough salary cap space to chase more than a bargain basement veteran like Corey Perry or Wayne Simmonds, or near-minimum salary reclamation. Sunday morning, Pittsburgh Hockey Now heard a pair of names which would fit the Penguins needs and might fit their salary cap.
The highest profile free agent name told to us by a source close to the Penguins front office is Tampa Bay Lightning d-man, Anton Stralman.
We should note that the Penguins in a difficult spot. They’ve been working at 100mph since Saturday afternoon when they freed up an extra $1.9 million of cap space. GM Jim Rutherford did not expect to be in a position to chase free agents, but PHN was told by multiple sources, the Penguins free agent conversations were resigned and short.
Because they’re getting a late jump, they’re entering conversations late perhaps to some advantage but to some disadvantage, too.
Penguins Free Agent Target
Stralman, 32, is a right-handed defenseman who eats minutes for breakfast. He hasn’t averaged less than 20 minutes since 2013-14 when he played for the New York Rangers. He’s not big or physical, but he takes care of the puck. Despite heavy minutes, Stralman has only 29, 27, and 16 turnovers in the past three seasons, respectively.
The Penguins could sorely use more defensemen who don’t give away the puck like candy on Halloween.
Stralman’s strengths are a smooth skating glide and fluid puck movement. He is a prototypical Swedish defenseman in those areas. Stralman was a mainstay rearguard on very successful Tampa Bay teams; however, his offensive numbers have dipped since Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and Eastern Conference Final in 2016. He had 39 points and then 34 points in those seasons, but has scored only 22, 18, and 17 points since.
Stralman only played 47 games last season, so his numbers are somewhat depressed.
At 32-years-old Stralman’s next contract term is also crucial. The Penguins cannot afford to dish a five-year deal. He finished a five-year, $22.5 million deal. It’s pure speculation, but he will probably garner a four-year deal worth $16 million-$20 million.
The Penguins could be buyers on the low end.
If the Penguins do snag Stralman, that means the end of the Penguins line for Justin Schultz or Erik Gudbranson. Schultz would be easier to move because he has one year left on his contract and is just two seasons removed from a 51-point outburst. His natural skills would not have a shortage of suitors. Gudbranson was very good after being acquired by the Penguins at the NHL trade deadline.
However, that’s a subject for a different day and a separate column.
For now, Stralman is one player to watch.