Strait has been a solid AHL defenseman for the past three and a half years and has 12 games of NHL experience under his belt, plus four more in the playoffs last season. But for Pittsburgh, it was a numbers game- they had, counting Strait, eight defensemen on NHL contracts and former first round pick Simon Despres has merited a look. There was simply no room for everyone.
And the team, interestingly, chose to put Strait on waivers instead on safely sending the younger Despres (who doesn't need to pass through waivers yet). It was a gamble, and it didn't work, as Strait will now join the Islanders and look to establish himself as an NHL player there.
There'll be a lot of belly-aching, probably from here, about the Penguins asset managmenet strategies. Strait was a high 3rd round pick in 2006 and the team spent a lot of time, energy and money developing him, only to lose him for nothing.
But, at the same time, check the trade market. Depth guys (like Strait, Ben Lovejoy and Robert Bortuzzo) are not getting traded right now. It's highly unlikely the Pens had another option that would have dealt a guy away to avoid the waiver choice.
Also, due to games played and his age, Brian Strait could also be a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer, so losing his services as a #7 or #8 guy on the depth chart for 48 games plus playoffs is a lot better of a risk to take than risking losing a younger Bortuzzo or a more experience Lovejoy, so maybe the Pens asset management deserves a little credit for foresight too.
Still, this says more about Despres than Strait, to the Penguins. They must be ready to give him a real look in the NHL and a chance to make his mark. For Strait, we say good-bye and good-luck to the best beard on the team this side of Pascal Dupuis.