Entering training camp, the Boston Bruins are beginning the season under first-year coach Jim Montgomery missing two of their top-four defensemen. Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will miss the first couple of months of the season recovering from offseason surgeries. Both players have begun skating and doing individual drills on their own without their teammates as they begin the long road back to game action.
One of the battles to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks ahead of the season opener on Oct. 12 against the Washington Capitals is how the defensive pairings end up working out. In the big picture, the Bruins only have two right-shot defensemen and it is more than likely that a left-shot might have to go to his off-side on one of the pairings. That, however, could change after the Black and Gold announced that they are bringing in veteran defensemen Anton Stralman into camp on a Professional Tryout Agreement (PTO).
Stralman Brings Plenty of Experience
Stralman was selected 216th overall in the seventh round of the 2005 Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs and has played for five different teams in his 15-year career. Last season in 74 games for the Arizona Coyotes he had eight goals and 15 assists. The 35-year-old fell one goal short of his career-high which he reached in back-to-back seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Stralman averaged 21:20 a night for the Coyotes last season and the 5-foot-11 and 186-pounder sacrificed his body to block shots. He tied his career-high for blocked shots with 100 and had 96 shots on the net. The Bruins should be very familiar with Stralman who played top-four minutes with the Lightning in his five seasons there, and was paired with Victor Hedman at various times. He also saw top-four minutes in his two seasons with the Florida Panthers in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
When he was with the Lightning and in the middle of his career, Stralman was in the Norris Trophy conversation and a key contributor on teams that made deep postseason runs. With McAvoy out and the Bruins lacking regular right-shot defensemen, there is nothing to lose by bringing him in for a tryout.
Bruins Take a Low Risk With the Potential for High Reward With Stralman
During the offseason, Jakub Zboril is a name that has been talked about making the move from the left side to the right side to join Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton, who are the top-two regular right-shot defensemen on the depth chart. Mike Reilly is another left-shot defenseman that is capable of moving to the right side.
Bringing in Stralman is going to create a competition with Zboril for a spot on the right side. Zboril is finally healthy after suffering a season-ending torn ACL last December in a game against the Nashville Predators and he re-signed with the Bruins last May following their elimination in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes. Before his injury, the 13th overall pick in the 2015 Draft was making a case to earn a full-time spot in the lineup after a strong November and early December.
On the right side, the Bruins currently know what they have in Carlo and Clifton, with questions surrounding whether or not Zboril or Reilly can carry the load on that side until McAvoy comes back. Bringing in Stralman is going to create a competition for the next couple of weeks and it also has the potential to give the Bruins some veteran leadership. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney has mismanaged the salary cap the last couple of seasons which forced them to be a cap team this past offseason and tied their hands in an attempt to bring in free agents like, John Klingberg who ended up with the Anaheim Ducks, or anyone else.
Adding Stralman to the roster for training camp is a very low-risk, high-reward opportunity for the Bruins. If he comes in and proves to be better than Zboril or Reilly on the right side, then the Black and Gold have a veteran who is more than capable of supplying 20 minutes a night until McAvoy returns. If not, then they cut ties and move on, but whatever happens, it’s going to create a battle for a roster spot on opening night, and right now, the Bruins need as much competition in camp as they can get.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.