I have not yet decided on a guitar to purchase but I am looking at a Stratocaster probably. I've heard good, bad, and middle of the road opinions on trems in general and I was wondering...

As a new player I don't plan to use the trem much, though its a nice feature to have for the future... On the American Strat is the trem worth anything? If I am not going to use it will it give me tuning issues? Should I flatten out the springs so its locked down and can't move? (heard that suggestion from one person, was wondering what others thought of it) If I plan to use it later down the road should I replace/upgrade it?

And strings... real quick: replace the stock strings before I leave the store? Or wait a bit before I go for something else? Are there easier/harder styles of strings?
It sounds like a strat tremelo is just right for you. If you buy it new it shouldn't give you many/any problems, as long a you don't dive bomb all the time. If you want it locked just block the bridge in the cavity behind the guitar, that way you can easily undo it without messing with springs.
I'd leave the stock strings on. For some weird unknown reason, stock strings are magical and last months (years?) on end with going bad. I'm serious. But buy a pack for when you do change them (wait until one breaks).

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if you don't plan on using it much (yet) then don't bother. If you get to the point where you want to then buy an uptoyourspeed strat or have the one you bought modified, do it then. If you don't really need it, hold out, I could see how it might cause tuning problems.
It is nice to have but personally, i think it rather gets in the way. Make sure what your major genre's gonna be and see if it requires you to use a trem that much. If you prefer doing vibrato with your own fingers, then you wont need a trem. But if you would like to achieve that particular trem-techniques tone, then you'd need that.

See/hear the condition of the strings, if the tone/condition is still good, then it'd live for another month.
"Play with your ears" - Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert
Thats what she said...