Yesterday Anton Stralman gave an interesting quote, stating he is “looking for security for his family,” basically stating he is looking for a contract. Many of us took that to believe that Stralman will price himself out of New York, as the Rangers may not have the cap space to sign their second pairing defenseman. But that also brought up an interesting question, one that no one has been able to agree on a consistent answer: What is Anton Stralman’s value?
Stralman is a #fancystats darling. He drives puck possession with the best of them, as his 56.5% Corsi puts him in the top-30 (#28) in the entire league. He was tops on the Rangers as well. His solid defensive play makes him a very good defenseman to have on your team. He is someone who quietly does his job, while also finding ways to tilt the ice in his team’s favor.
The problem is that Stralman doesn’t put up offensive numbers. In three seasons with the Rangers, he has just seven goals and 38 points. He doesn’t play on the powerplay, he’s not a fighter, he’s not a bruiser, he’s not a burner. He’s just very steady and very heady. He never panics with the puck, and he always makes the smart first pass. But the smart first pass doesn’t show up on the score sheet.
This is where we get into market value versus perceived value. In hockey, players are generally paid based on their production. Offensive defensemen get more money because they put up gaudy numbers. Offensive defensemen win the Norris because of these numbers. These defensemen aren’t always the guys that drive possession, or even play solid defense (Kris Letang, Eric Karlsson, etc). The lone exception here is Anton Volchenkov, who got a massive deal from New Jersey because he blocked a ton of shots (something that also works against Stralman). In short: Stralman’s market value is hurt because he doesn’t put up numbers.
Of course, Stralman’s perceived value is significantly higher. His ability to drive puck possession and shot attempts while on the ice is unmatched on the Rangers from the blue line. He’s a top-ten defenseman when it comes to tilting the ice for his team, ahead of guys like Chara, Shattenkirk, Timmonen, Pietrangelo, Karlsson, and Niskanen. His perceived value is right up there with these guys because of the fancy stats.
Therein lies the conundrum with Stralman: Perceived value doesn’t show up in a contract. Market value does.
Stralman is looking for a big pay day, and reportedly turned down a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers. I think he is looking at the Andrew MacDonald contract (six-years, $30 million) and thinking he might be able to fetch that as well. But A-Mac put up more offensive numbers than Stralman.
If Stralman is indeed looking for that monster pay-day, he’s not going to get it from Glen Sather. The Rangers don’t have much cap space to go over their $3 million offer, with many other key guys to re-sign as well. It’ll be interesting to see what Stralman gets in free agency, with such a stark contract between his market value and his perceived value.
Update: In a quick conversation with James Mirtle, a good point was brought up regarding Stralman’s market value. He’s one of very few top-four defensemen available this year. He’s also a right-handed shot. Supply and demand plays into his favor, driving up his market value. UFA markets fluctuate from year to year, and top-four defensemen that play 20 minutes a night will get paid. This appears to be a case where his perceived value will match his market value, a rare occurrence for a guy like Stralman.