Wonder no more about what the Flames’ defence will look like for 2017-18.
When the Calgary Flames traded for Michael Stone at the trade deadline, they did so with the intention of upgrading their top four defence. When they traded for Travis Hamonic at the draft, it was the exact same story. Now, they’ve re-signed Stone, apparently intending to bolster that defensive core.
At a price, though. Stone’s contract is for three years, with an annual average value of $3.5 million per.
Michael Stone agrees to terms in CGY, three years with an AAV of $3.5M.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 30, 2017
There are a couple of ways to look at this.
If you’re a believer in Stone, then this gives the Flames a comically stacked defensive corps. You have a top pairing of Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, a second pairing of T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic, and now a guy who is presumably a top four player – and has been used as such for a number of seasons now – playing on the bottom pairing. This also gives the Flames a certain cushion of depth should any of these five guys get hurt.
If you’re a believer in Stone, then you’re a believer that he will rebound. And really, this isn’t much different than Hamonic’s situation. Both Hamonic and Stone were two of the worst defencemen in the entire NHL by corsi metrics this past season; however, 2016-17 was an outlier for both players, and they both played on two teams that fared incredibly poorly, both in general and possession-wise. If one will rebound, why wouldn’t the other?
Speaking of Hamonic, though, Stone’s cap hit is just under his. Remember when Deryk Engelland was a bottom pairing defenceman making $2.9 million per? Well, now the Flames have added an even more expensive bottom pairing defender. They just got themselves out from under Lance Bouma’s contract – the cheapest of the $10 million fourth line – to make sure they’ll have a bottom pairing creeping up on $5 million, depending on what their sixth defender – presumably Brett Kulak – will make. Is that a better allocation of cap?
Speaking of Kulak, he’s a prospective Flames defenceman looking to crack the NHL. The Flames have a number of high quality defensive prospects, though none probably quite as close to making the big league as Kulak is. So… when they are at a level to make it, how exactly are they supposed to break in? Brodie, Hamonic, and Stone will now be occupying three roster spots until 2020. Is Rasmus Andersson three years away? Is Oliver Kylington? Is Juuso Valimaki? Is Adam Fox? I don’t think it’s likely that all of the Flames’ highly-regarded prospects are that far off from making the NHL, but now, the Flames have left virtually no room for them whatsoever.
In short, this re-signing is perplexing. The Flames’ bottom defence pairing is now bloated by default. There is extremely limited room now available to a talented group of prospects, and it will be like that for years. And if Stone can’t rebound from his career worst season, then the Flames have just anchored themselves for no reason – mere days out of finally getting out of a bad contractual situation on defence.
That said, this signing does have the potential to have a massive payoff, but skepticism is probably warranted. Make no mistake: the Flames are officially entering their contention window. They want it now.
Calgary now has roughly just under $10 million to re-sign Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland (and Curtis Lazar, if you’re so inclined), and add two more forwards and a defenceman.
By re-signing Stone, the Flames have also forfeited their 2018 fifth round pick to the Arizona Coyotes.