With the NHL trade deadline ticking ever closer, I saw an interesting piece on the Lightning blog Raw Charge. They were speculating about a player that was off the radar for a trade, so it was definitely attention catching from the headling: Should the Lightning trade Anton Stralman?
But here's where from the Penguins perspective that I really perked up:
If Stralman was to enter the market, he would be by far the biggest name on the trading block. A 30-year-old, right-handed defender under contract for $4.5 million a year for two more seasons would bring a handsome return. Tampa would be dealing from a position of strength, with no need to retain salary or settle for a middling return. The starting price would be a first-round draft pick and a high-caliber young prospect, and let teams bid themselves up from there.
If the price ended up being a 2017 first round pick + Derrick Pouliot would that make sense?
Salary-wise, the Penguins could swing it. Put Olli Maatta on long-term injury reserve and he wouldn't be able to be activated until the playoffs and that frees up as much as the pro-rated amount of Maatta's $4.08 million salary. That LTIR action plus sending down one of Chad Ruhwedel , Cameron Gaunce or Steve Oleksy would make adding Stralman a net-equal move from the salary cap perspective.
Value-wise, I don't know. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman and his staff would have to put a lot of value in the chances that Pouliot could develop better in their system and under the leadership of John Cooper. It remains questionable that would be the best offer they would get, or if they figured this season was an anomaly and they would be better off holding onto a proven commodity in Strlaman for next year.
Then again, as Raw Charge adds, there's a reason why they even float Stralman's name right now and it's because he's not in great form right now:
The Lightning would also be selling high on a player that will eventually start to decline, if he hasn’t already. It’s hard to say whether Stralman is struggling because he never fully recovered from rushing back from his broken leg last year, or whether he’s just been unlucky (2.3% shooting percentage!), or whether his skill set is starting to diminish. It is apparent that he is not playing up to the standard that he set over his first two seasons with the Lightning.
Stralman is 30 years old, and his skating is a big part of his game. If the aforementioned leg injury (that he returned from during the Penguins / Lightning 2016 Eastern Conference Final, as you may remember) is still a hindrance, that makes one wonder how much he could have to contribute for a 2017 playoff run.
There would also be expansion draft questions to consider as well. Adding Stralman means he would have to be protected (since you're not going to trade a 1st+prospect to risk losing that in a few months time) and Kris Letang is auto-protected from his no movement. If the Penguins were to acquire Stralman, they would almost certainly have to expose one of Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz to the draft, and that's even if you assume they go to a 4F+4D type strategy. That might not be the wisest choice.
Still, as Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has said many times, his goal is to give this team the best chance to win, and then "fix" the salary cap or roster moves later. An expansion worry isn't going to prevent him from a bold move of trying to win the Stanley Cup again this year, if such a move is available and would help.
And as he also said just a few days ago:
"We were going to go into this market this month with the understanding that if the right defenseman was there, for what we felt was the right price, then we would move on it," Rutherford said
Could Anton Stralman be that defenseman? Could the price be right? 8 more days before the deadline...