So far in the playoffs (a few hiccups aside) and after every additional game, Anton Stralman is getting more expensive for the New York Rangers to retain. As such, the team should already be considering moving on from the solid yet unspectacular blueliner.
If rumours are true that Stralman rejected a three year, $9 million dollar deal from the Rangers back in March, then he’s already auditioning for July’s free agency. Over the past few months Stralman’s value certainly won’t have lessened and Stralman’s agent will also know about the general lack of quality blueliners available this summer. It should certainly be a seller’s market (and another reason the Rangers need to handle Marc Staal’s contract situation as a matter of priority).
Allowing Stralman to leave may be a hit to the franchise in the short term, but it gives the Rangers a chunk of extra cap space to work with and gives them the opportunity to assess the options already within the franchise. Looking at several clubs in the playoffs this season, teams have been unafraid to throw in younger blueliners and let them grow into prominent roles. As a possession based club, the Rangers could do the same and not suffer any significant growing pains.
Boston has benefitted from Torey Krug and Kevan Miller patrolling the blueline, and both have played major roles in the postseason for the powerhouse Bruins. Tampa Bay has benefited hugely this year from Radko Gudas’s development. Colorado thrust Tyson Barrie into a prominent role and he has rewarded them with a strong season at both ends of the rink.
It’s easy for Boston to push top prospects such as Dougie Hamilton or Columbus to do the same with Ryan Murray, but the real talent (and value)is developing less heralded, cheaper options. Boston aside (who boast perennial Norris candidate Zdeno Chara), do any of the aforementioned playoff teams or other clubs in the league benefit from the top three blueliners that the Rangers can utilize to protect their youngsters?
With Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi eating up the major minutes, the theory is that any young players injected into the Rangers line-up next year could be well protected. There’s no reason a Conor Allen, Dylan McIlrath or a more mature prospect such as Matt Bodie can’t have a similar impact to those mentioned above (the blue chippers aside).
Anton Stralman has grown into a solid top four blueliner for the Rangers (although he excels at no particular aspect of the game), but given the depth the club have at the NHL level and the contracts they need to deal with up front (Kreider, Brassard, Zuccarello, Pouliot, etc) he has become a luxury that’s only getting more expensive.
Several clubs around the NHL have shown the Rangers the way forward with how to handle young defensemen. They have shown the Rangers that they can move on from Stralman and not worry about the fallout. Let someone else overpay and invest in Stralman. The time is right for the Rangers to invest in their own.