Coming off a 101-point season the Tampa Bay Lightning were already a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference, and general manager Steve Yzerman hasn't exactly slowed down this offseason when it comes to continuing to build them into a Stanley Cup contending team.
After acquiring defenseman Jason Garrison from the Vancouver Canucks in a pre-draft trade and clearing out salary with the compliance buyout of Ryan Malone, the Lightning continued to boost their defense in free agency by signing Anton Stralman to a five-yaer, $22.5 million contract.
NHL Free Agency
NHL Free Agency
For Stralman, it's a testament to how far his career has come in just a few years, going from a guy that was settling for a tryout contract to a player that was one of the most sought after players in free agency. He's always been an underappreciated defenseman in the NHL throughout his career because he doesn't necessarily do the things that get people to notice defensemen. He doesn't put up a ton of points offensively, and he's not really known for being a big, physical presence that is going to physically overpower people.
But when he's on the ice his team flat out plays better than when he's not, and isn't that the most important thing? Substance over style.
It's a huge get for Tampa Bay and gives them a defence that will be powered by Stralman, Garrison, Matt Carle and the criminally underrated Victor Hedman, a player that is quickly becoming one of the better all-around defensemen in the NHL.
Combine them with a forward group that has Steven Stamkos and an impressive collection of young forwards starting to make an impact in the NHL, and you've got a team that has the chance to make a ton of noise in a conference that remains up for grabs due to its lack of dominant teams, with some of the top teams (New York, Pittsburgh) seemingly making themselves weaker so far this offseason.
They have a superstar, a promising young goaltender that is coming off of a huge season, cheap impact talent, and now they've added two significant pieces to their defense.