Breaking down the Stralman trade
Blue Jackets General Manager found himself between a rock and a hard place this training camp. The issue: the CBJ had not brought anyone in to help improve the league’s worst power play last season. Going into training camp, Howson seemed to be in prime position to strike a deal for that coveted offensive defenseman with a glut of tradeable wingers at his disposal and a number of teams crunched against the cap. Oh how quickly things changed.
Flash forward to Monday night, one day after the Blue Jackets played their last preseason game, and preseason injuries had all but done away with any chance of moving a roster winger for that puck-mover. Howson and Hitchcock obviously didn’t feel comfortable one of their younger, more inexperienced defensemen filling in the 7th defenseman hole, but Martin Skoula wasn’t exactly going to give the team much of a boost either. So Scott Howson made his deal and acquired Anton Stralman from the Calgary Flames of a third round pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.
It’s been a hectic summer for the 6’1” 200 lb Swede. The Blue Jackets are his third team in less then three months. The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt Stralman, along with Colin Stewart to Calgary for Wayne Primeau and a second round pick in 2011 during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on July 27th. However, a couple days later the Flames further bolstered their blue line with the acquisition of Jay Bouwmeester. With the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich already entrenched in the top four, and other youngsters like Mark Giordano and Adam Pardy fighting for the final two spots, there just wasn’t much room for Stralman. Howson saw an opportunity and he went to strike the deal.
Selected by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round, 216 overall, of the 2005 Entry Draft, Stralman has all the intangibles to be a solid defenseman in this league. He’s got good size and a monster RIGHT-HANDED shot. In 38 games with the Leafs last year he registered 1-12-13 along with 43 shots on goal. The 23-year-old still needs to become more polished in his own defensive zone, but has managed to make an overall good impression in his 88 career games, all coming with the Leafs. He also is in the final year of his entry-level contract, which gives the club a lot of flexibility as he will only be a restrict free agent this summer.
This move was a low risk, high reward for Howson. He lost his biggest trading pieces early in camp but still managed to come away with an offensive defenseman. Many have pegged Stralman “late bloomer” with lots of untapped potential. Stralman will push hard for power play minutes and likely find himself in a few games early on in the season to see what he can do. The Jackets need a right-handed shot from the point and Mike Commodore does not fit that mold. If Stralman can tap into his offensive potential, it will be very hard for Coach Hitchcock to keep him out of the lineup.