TAMPA — House hunting brought Anton Stralman to Tampa on Tuesday, but it was the direction of the Tampa Bay Lightning that lured him to town.
A week after signing a five-year free-agent deal worth $22.5 million, Stralman flew to Tampa with his wife and four children to search for a place for the family to live once they get settled into their new surroundings.
While the security of a five-year deal for his family factored into the decision after Stralman, 27, played for four teams in the past seven seasons, Stralman also sees an opportunity to be a part of a franchise that is on the rise in the eyes of many.
“I think this team is close to complete, honestly,” Stralman said. “The forwards have tremendous firepower and then you have the best scorer in the league (Steven Stamkos). You can’t ask for more. This team is very promising.
“It’s been real interesting the last few years. Steve Yzerman has done a great and tremendous job with it. And when you’re making your choice (as a free agent), you want to see progress and a team (moving) in a positive way. And I think this team has all those criteria. I’m really excited.’’
Stralman should also be excited about playing in a system instituted by the Lightning coaching staff that encourages defensemen to join the rush and help create offense. After trying to make it as more of an offensive defenseman, Stralman restructured his game the past three seasons with the Rangers. Under former Tampa Bay head coach John Tortorella, he learned to play a more structured game in his own end.
“It was a long process, a lot of ups and downs,’’ Stralman said. “I knew with the way my game was, that’s not going to work. I’m not going to be able to play. I’m not going to take (advantage of) this chance I was given. So, I worked hard and tried to really focus on that defensive part of my game and it took me a while.”
Now, after taking the step to being a reliable top four blue liner, he hopes to be able to round out his game.
“I was just dropping the offensive part, but now I’m really trying to find that offensive part of my game,” he said. “That’s been a struggle, but I will keep working on it because I don’t want to sacrifice anything from what I’ve been building on in my career.’’
Former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster returned to the team this week, taking on the role of Executive Director of Community Hockey Development, four years after he was let go by the franchise.
“My family just loves it here,’’ Feaster said. “We spent 10 years here, we have great friends here that are still our friends to this day. This really is home.’’
After Feaster was fired as general manager of Calgary in December, he began talking to the Lightning about a possible return to the organization during the 10-year Stanley Cup anniversary weekend in March. After a few conversations, the groundwork was put in place for Feaster to return to the franchise he helped lead to a championship 2004.
“I’ve followed the team since I left, and followed it very closely after Jeff (Vinik) took over as owner,’’ Feaster said. “And I think he is the best owner of a team right now. I love the way he does his business. I love the fact that he hires the people and lets them do the job. He paints the waterfront for them but it’s their business for them to run.’’
Feaster will work to help grow the game at the youth, high school and even the adult level, working closely with area ice rinks to help expose hockey to those who want to try the sport or work toward playing hockey on a full-time basis.
Tampa Bay re-signed restricted free agent C Cody Kunyk to a one-year, two-way contract on Tuesday.
Kunyk joined the Lightning in March after signing as a free agent out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and made his NHL debut in the regular season finale at Washington on April 13.
The Lightning also officially announced the signing of 26-year-old D Matt Corrente to a one-year, two-way contract.