Anton Stralman has been a key cog on the New York Rangers' blue line for the last three seasons, but there is a significant chance that he will depart the team after the season ends.
It was reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post that Stralman was offered and turned down a three-year contract worth $9 million. This would have come with a reasonable cap hit of $3 million, but it wasn't to the Swedish defender's liking. With that in mind, will 2013-14 be the last for Stralman as a Broadway Blueshirt?
Given the Rangers' tight cap situation, it is unlikely that Stralman will be re-signed at a rate higher than the $3 million he was already offered.
The New Jersey Devils at the start of the 2011-12 season signed Stralman to a tryout, but he ultimately was released. The Rangers then took a chance on him, and he was inked to a one-year deal.
He subsequently signed a two-year deal that will expire in July. Stralman's current $1.7 million cap hit is a huge bargain, and the Rangers have really benefited from that the past two seasons. As it currently stands, the Rangers have $17,912,500 to fill out 11 roster spots, so it is understandable that they offered Stralman the contract they did.
If they walk away from Stralman, it will be because they are tight on cash. To bring some context to the situation, here is a list of key players that need to be re-signed, and what they currently are making.
|Key New York Ranger Free Agents|
|Player||Position||Cap Hit||Contract Status|
This is a very long list, and the Blueshirts may have to get creative when it comes to filling out their roster. Stralman has been a steady defender over the last few years, but the Rangers can't afford to fit him in at more than $3 million per year.
If Stralman walks, that would mean that Conor Allen or Dylan McIlrath would get a spot on the team, and that would help save money. Although it would be cost effective, the Rangers would be adding some inexperience to the roster.
McIlrath is still a prospect, and Allen is a former collegiate star that played three games earlier this season with the Rangers. It isn't an ideal situation, but it is never bad to have youth on the roster. Ultimately Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were in similar situations earlier in their career, and just look at them now.
Heading into next season, the Rangers will have two of their top defenders locked up. Staal is a free agent next summer, so it is feasible that not re-signing Stralman could factor into re-signing Staal. Staal is arguably more important to the team in the long term, so letting Stralman go would make sense.
Ultimately the loss of Stralman is not ideal, but the Rangers can find a replacement for him. Outside of Stralman, the defense is pretty solid, so it isn't like losing him would throw the team into a tailspin.
He has been a solid, underrated and cap-friendly contributor. The Rangers have had many players like him before, and they likely will in years to come. As much as it hurts that Stralman doesn't want to re-sign with the Rangers at $3 million for three years, it may be a blessing in disguise if it enables Glen Sather to re-sign other players.
Only time will tell, and it will be interesting to see how Stralman finishes the season, and what happens next in potential contract negotiations.