Anton Stralman knew a trade was coming. He just didn't know where he was headed.
When he was moved in the off-season from the Toronto Maple Leafs to Calgary in a deal that sent forward Wayne Primeau to Toronto, he couldn't have been happier.
"I think it was a good sign," said the sleek skating Swedish blueliner. "I'm happy with the trade. I kind of saw it coming. Obviously I didn't know where. But I think it is a positive move for me. I think I might have more opportunity here."
The Flames defence features veterans Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich
and Jay Bouwmeester
along with emerging defencemen Mark Giordano
and Adam Pardy, who acquitted himself well in his rookie season last year. The Flames also acquired Staffan Kronwall as a free agent signing in the off-season. Add in blueliners who have been in the Flames system for a while -- players like Keith Aulie, John Negrin and Matt Pelech -- and the battle for the sixth and seventh spot on the blueline are more than a little interesting this season.
Kronwall, 26, was also initially a Toronto draft pick, ninth round, 285th overall, in 2002. He was with the Leafs farm club and the Washington Capitals farm club most of last season, He has 55 games in the NHL and has recorded one assist in that span. Stralman and Kronwall played together in Toronto's system.
Stralman, 23, knows cracking the Flames line-up will be a daunting task.
"It's a big challenge. I am looking forward to it," he said.
The challenge began early this week with Stralman joining 34 other Flames hopefuls at prospect camp. It began Tuesday with fitness testing and runs throught o Saturday. Main camp hits the ice Sunday morning at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Stralman, who played 38 games for the Leafs last season, collecting a goal and 12 assists, uses his skating speed to generate offence.
"I am an offensive-minded defenceman. I really try and use my skating as my biggest asset. I try to move myself fast. Try to get out of trouble, move the puck and start a good offence with a quick transition game," he said.
Stralman moved to Calgary about a month before the start of camp in part to get settled and familiar with the city. His wife is expecting their second child "any day now" so getting settled was also important on the home front.
"It's good to get into the city and meet the guys in the organization and get on the same track as (Rich Hesketh, the Flames strength and conditioning coach) for training. Obviously, when you come to a new organization they have a different system for training so it was good to get that started, too."