Happy Birthday to Anton Stralman as he turns the big 3-0 today! Don’t worry Anton, you’re not over the hill yet.

Stralman came to the Lightning as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2014-15 season. He was originally drafted in the 7th round, 216th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005. The Swedish defender remained in Sweden for two more seasons playing in the SHL before moving across the pond to start his North American professional career.

He spent his first two seasons in North America shuttling between the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL. Following his two seasons with Toronto, he was traded to the Calgary Flames prior to the 2009-10 season. Two months later, he was traded from Calgary to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

At the time, Stralman had already had two children with his girlfriend Johanna, but they had not married yet. When they attempted to get visas for his family to come to the United States with him, there were issues raised about attachment despite them having children together. Columbus was playing in Calgary shortly after the trade and the Stralmans were able to get married in their rented apartment allowing Johanna and the children to move to Columbus with him.

His first year in Columbus was a success as he put up 34 points in 73 games but was a minus-17 in plus-minus rating. After a disappointed 18 points in 51 games and battling injuries and illness, Columbus declined to tender Stralman a contract following the 2010-11 season. Stralman went to training camp with the Devils and was released. He then was signed by the New York Rangers to a one-year contract in early November.

With New York, his point production took a step back as he only had 38 points in 182 regular season games. But his defense took a big step forward as he had a plus-32 rating over three years after starting his career at a minus-40. While the points didn’t come as readily as earlier in his career, Stralman became a possession driver for the Rangers and was highly thought of by advanced analytics people as he became a free agent.

He chose to join the Lightning and signed a 5-year $22.5 million contract with a $4.5 million AAV. His contract instantly paid off for the Lightning as he found instant chemistry with fellow Swede Victor Hedman on the top pair. Stralman’s possession abilities and contributions on the power play lead him to have his two best seasons posting 39 points in 82 games with a plus-22 and 34 points in 73 games with a plus-16. Not only has his performance been exception, he’s helped Hedman have two of his best seasons as well by allowing Hedman to be aggressive offensively while Stralman backs him up.

To top all of his on-ice performance, Stralman is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet in your life. He consistently stops after practices and games to sign autographs for fans, taking a few moments to chat with those waiting. It’s easy to see why he has become a favorite for many fans of the Lightning.

Happy Birthday Anton! We hope it’s a special one!