Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anton Stralman matters...to a point

Betcha didn't know that Stralman had a nasty streak.
Tomorrow is the Big Day Thus Far in the Columbus Blue Jackets offseason - the steel cage match arbitration hearing between defenseman Anton Stralman and CBJ general manager Scott Howson (backed up by assistant general manager Chris MacFarland).

As best I hear it (and I'm just reading the news sources like everyone else), Stralman and the CBJ are about a million dollars apart.  Stralman appears to be pinning his hopes on the 4-year, $14 million Restricted Free Agent offer sheet that Niklas Hjalmarsson got from the San Jose Sharks (which was matched by the Chicago Blackhawks, sending the Hawks reeling into another round of Salary Cap Hell cutbacks - So sad! ).  That means that Stralman is pegging his value somewhere around Hjalphabet's $3.5 million cap hit.  Take a million off because Stralman isn't half the defenseman that Hjarliwicz is, and $2.5 million is still a lot for our friend Anton.

Luckily for the CBJ, Stralman appears to be a one-year inconvenience to management.  Scott Howson asked the arbitrator for a one-year contract decision, as is his right, and reserves the right to walk away if he doesn't like the decision - making Stralman an Unrestricted Free Agent.

Beyond the contract length, however, Stralman's days in Columbus could be numbered if he overvalues his worth.  Why's that, you ask?  Take a look at the CBJ prospect system.

Is John Moore the answer to the Anton Stralman question?
While he's been retooling the roster at the NHL level, Howson has been almost single-mindedly rebuilding the blue line talent base out on the farm.  Largely through the draft, he's nabbed the likes of John Moore, Cody Goloubef and David Savard.  These kids will be viable NHL'ers sooner than later, and the incomplete Stralman could be on the outside looking in.

In fact, I'll take this a step further.  There's talk that Howson will likely have to grab two top-six defensemen if Stralman is sent packing.  I'll suggest that it's not likely.  Reason: John Moore.  Moore nearly made the club out of training camp without a day of juniors under his belt last season, and he apparently played admirably for the Kitchener Rangers (61 games, 10 goals, 37 assists, 47 points).  He appears to be in town - doing appearances and showing up at Scott Arniel's introductory presser.  One can presume that he's working out with the team strength and conditioning coach.  The kid wants to play badly in the NHL, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will again make it very hard for Howson to send him to the AHL Springfield Falcons.

Thus, if Stralman becomes a UFA, I can very easily see a scenario where Howson pops a couple tums and keeps Moore on the CBJ roster.  It's surely not what Howson would want to do - as we've heard so much about his being patient and letting the kids mature in the minors (the antithesis of Doug MacLean's approach)  - but everything I've been hearing suggests that Moore won't allow himself to be written off.  It's hard enough to find one good defenseman out on the market, let alone two, so why not bring up the young talent and put them on the third pair?

My feeling: Stralman's loss could be Moore's gain.  Pure and simple.  What's your opinion?

2 comments:

  1. Seems like a very possible scenario. Moore very nearly made the team last year, by all accounts, and his performance at prospect camp was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. It would also leave Howson with one less headache and one more option depending on how his moves to restock the blue line through a trade worked out.

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  2. Still think we need to sign Anton. If he continues to develop, last year was his first full year, then we have one more asset to work with. Besides you can never have too much talent on the blue line. If he doesn't at least you have given the prospects one more year to percolate.

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