So far, we've covered primarily forwards in our UFA Profiles, such as Gustav Nyquist and Matt Duchene. Today, let's turn our focus towards the blue line, where the Dallas Stars have a considerable gap in their top four.
Ideally, the Stars will add a steady second-pair defenseman to slot next to Miro Heiskanen. Unlike at forward, the Stars don't really need to find a stud at the position, just a solid player.
That’s where Anton Stralman comes in. At 32 years old, the veteran has been a fairly reliable defenseman for several NHL teams, most recently the Tampa Bay Lightning. Due to his projected low cost (he could come as cheap as just $4 million or so over 2-3 years) he has been a popular speculative target for Stars fans, as he would provide an upgrade over Roman Polak while still leaving cap space for a top-six forward like Mats Zuccarello.
Of course, when it comes to cheap options, you have to ask yourself why they are cheap. In Stralman’s case, the Swede is coming off of a rough year where he only played in 47 games — a combination of injuries and healthy scratches — though still averaged 20:31 time on ice when he did play.
It’s also clear that Stralman is regressing with age, especially when it comes to #fancystats. Take a look at how Stralman, once an excellent possession player, has declined over the years:
It would be one thing if Stralman was just another “defensive defenseman” and his puck possession numbers were always bad. But Stralman used to be a strong two-way player, posting close to a point every two games in three different seasons. Now he’s a shell of his former self.
Of course, the counterpoint is that he’s a (relatively) cheap upgrade over Roman Polak, as already mentioned. But in reality, is he that much of an improvement? For instance, take a look at the two players’ “With-or-Without You” charts from this past season:
Both players’ teammates tend to have much better possession numbers without them on the ice. Stralman doesn't “bring down” as many players as Polak, but the contrast between his stats without his teammates (blue) and theirs’ without him (red) is much more pronounced. That's in part because Tampa Bay was a much better possession team than Dallas, but also a testament to just how bad of a season Stralman had.
So is Stralman a good UFA option for the Stars? Personally, I'd say no. He’s been on a decline for several seasons now, and it’s only getting worse. To me, it rings like another Marc Methot situation, only without the injuries (maybe). The money, regardless of the amount, would be better spent elsewhere.
All that being said, given his reputation plus intangibles like “leadership” and “experience,” I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Victory Green this fall.