Why Stralman could be a sneaky good pickup for Bruins' blue line


The depth of the Boston Bruins blue line will be tested in a major way early in the 2022-23 NHL season with No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy and top-four d-man Matt Grzelcyk set to miss the start of the campaign as they continue to rehab from offseason surgeries.

The B's brought in veteran defenseman Anton Stralman on a professional tryout (PTO) contract earlier this month, and there are a few reasons why he could end up being a sneaky good pickup for a team that needs some experience in the absences of two important defensemen. 

Stralman has played 15 seasons, totaling 930 regular season games and 113 playoff matchups, including two trips to the Stanley Cup Final. 

The Bruins appear ready to toss Stralman into the fire right away. He spent time alongside fellow Swede Hampus Lindholm during Monday's practice. Both of them are on the team's roster for Tuesday's preseason contest against the New York Rangers at TD Garden, and we'll probably see them take several shifts together.

"And then Stralman, you can see that he's in really good shape and he ends plays and he makes good decisions with the puck," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters Monday. "You know he's played a lot of games in this league and it showed today."

What can Stralman realistically give the Bruins?

He's a smart, poised player with the puck who consistently makes good decisions with it in his own zone. He's not going to race past opponents with blazing speed, but you also don't have to worry about him making many bone-headed turnovers. He's ideally a third-pairing guy but could play higher in the lineup with the right partner. 

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Stralman also has the potential to bring some much-needed offense to Boston's blue line. The only Bruins defensemen who tallied more than 13 points at 5-on-5 last season were McAvoy (25) and Grzelcyk (18) -- the two guys who won't be available for the first month or so of the upcoming campaign. Stralman tallied 23 points in 74 games for the Arizona Coyotes last season, and 22 of them (including seven of his eight goals) were scored during 5-on-5 action.

The veteran d-man has played 20-plus minutes per game in seven of the last eight seasons, including 21:20 per night for the Coyotes in 2021-22. It also should be noted that Stralman has plenty of experience killing penalties. His 2:56 of shorthanded ice time ranked second on the Coyotes last season. 

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A veteran defenseman who can provide some 5-on-5 offense, kill penalties, and eat up 20-plus minutes against decent (or better) competition would be pretty valuable for a banged up Bruins blue line. 

No one is, or should be, expecting Stralman to be this all-world shut down defenseman for the Bruins, so we shouldn't set expectations unreasonably high. But it's quite possible he gives their blue line a much-needed lift while McAvoy and Grzelcyk are out of the lineup. 

Stralman needs to make the team first, though, and Tuesday's preseason game against the Rangers is a great opportunity for him to make a strong impression. 

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