#6 / Defense / New York Rangers
2013 Cap Hit: $1,700,000
Stralman is coming off a season in which he surprised just about everyone with his very solid defensive play despite being limited on the score sheet. For a guy who was considered a puck-mover and defensive question mark as a prospect, this was quite the significant turnaround. Playing on the Rangers' second pairing with Marc Staal, Stralman quietly faced tough competition and put up excellent enough possession numbers that the advanced stats community took quite a shine to him as the season wore on. He moves well and is a good enough athlete to cover for the majority of his miscues while maintaining enough of an offensive presence that he can be a transition game sparkplug. He was trusted enough defensively last year to average 1:37 per night on the PK for a team that finished with the 3rd best PK in the NHL.
Stralman's biggest weakness is he brings almost no physicality whatsoever. While a solid possession guy, he's not going to be making any big hits and is forced to rely on more positionally sound play because his limited size causes him to be overwhelmed when the game gets overly physical. Like so many of the second-pairing talents in the NHL, Stralman struggles a great deal in handling the game's quicker forwards, quite the problem when you consider the NHL is constantly getting faster and always looking for ways to open up the offensive side of the game.
With Stralman finishing up a 2-year, $3.4M contract, he's looking at his first foray into Free Agency with an eye on securing his immediate and long-term futures. Having recently been quoted as saying he wants to find a place to settle down long-term due to being part of 4 organizations since 2009. The Rangers recently offered Stralman a 4-year, $16M deal that he has yet to accept. Should Stralman be looking for a deal north of that, it would likely come at the cost of pricing himself out of Colorado's range. If he's looking for more term than money, the 27-year old might find a suitable partner in Colorado, a team that has recently enjoyed a trend of signing players to longer terms in order to keep the overall cost of the contracts to a lower, more manageable level. I expect some team will jump and pay Stralman in the area of 5 years, $22M and beyond.
Why It Works:
Stralman would immediately fill the need for more quality defensemen as the team hopes to shore up its central weakness along the blueline. He's actually a touch younger than a lot of the UFAs on the market this year and his game has been trending upward the last two years in such a way that suggests he's currently enjoying the peak of his abilities. While a longer deal would seem to run the risk of his play deteriorating, the Avs would be wise to take a chance on a guy who has been so good the last couple seasons.
Stralman is one of my favorite UFAs this summer and would love to see him donning the Avalanche 'A' next season. I'm not worried about the money as I would be with Niskanen because so much of Stralman's value is tied to his defensive acumen, which is where the Avs are sorely lacking. His recent playoff runs with the Rangers means the Avs would also be adding more playoff experience to a roster largely lacking in it. Thumbs up!