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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Stone provided solid depth for the Calgary Flames in 2021-22

Injuries and illnesses are a fact of life in the National Hockey League, so having strong depth players who can slot in on short notice is really important. The Calgary Flames largely avoided lengthy absences this season but when they needed blueline help, Michael Stone was ready, willing, and able to jump in and play solid minutes.

The past

A Winnipeg product, Stone played four seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, including one season as captain. His play earned him attention from scouts, and he ended up being selected as a third round pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2008 NHL Draft.

Stone went pro in 2010-11 and spent three seasons in the Coyotes’ system bouncing between the NHL and AHL. He finally broke through in 2013-14 and became a full-time NHLer, and he spent a few seasons carving out a niche for himself as largely what he was in the WHL: a really reliable, versatile second tier defender with a physical edge and a good shot. (Mobility was the main thing that held him back.) His offensive high with the Coyotes was 36 points in 2015-16, but he was usually good for 20-25 points per season.

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Stone was sent to the Flames at the 2016 trade deadline, then re-signed to a three year deal that off-season. Stone was used as a second and (usually) third pairing defender for much of his Flames run. His play declined a bit during his run, as he was hampered a bit by injuries and a nasty blood clot that cost him a bunch of the 2018-19 season. With the Flames in a cap bind, Stone was bought out following the 2018-19 season. A few weeks later, Juuso Valimaki blew out his knee and required surgery, and the Flames brought back Stone on a league minimum contract.

Stone was effective in 2019-20 in a depth role, so he was brought back in a similar role in the pandemic 2020-21 season (and also spent time on the taxi squad and briefly in the AHL).

The present

As he had for the prior two seasons, Stone signed a one year deal at league minimum salary for the 2021-22 season. He spent the entire season on the NHL roster. He was a healthy scratch for 71 games and dressed in 11 games, often on short notice, since for the most part the Flames avoided injuries on the back end.

When Stone did play, he played with Chris Tanev (in place of Oliver Kylington) or Nikita Zadorov (in place of Erik Gudbranson). He played in the pre-season with Kylington, which came in handy when Tanev was injured in the playoffs and Stone reunited with Kylington.

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Stone and Kylington ended up as the third pairing in the playoffs, in part because Kylington was playing through an injury and in part due to Stone’s limitations as a player. But they were fairly effective, which is all you can really ask a team’s seventh defender to be – especially in the playoffs.

The future

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Stone over the past few seasons, it’s that he’s still got some gas left in the tank. What he does with it is up for debate. He just turned 32 and he’s a pending free agent with ties to the Calgary area. He seems to have been well-suited to the role of being a seventh defender, and he’s been pretty good at it – especially during the past season.

But does he want more than that? He could go elsewhere and potentially get a raise and more of an opportunity to play. Does he want to leave a good situation for more opportunity, or does he want to wait and see what happens with the Flames’ cap situation?

Stone was a really effective seventh defender for the Flames in 2021-22, and his play this season has likely given him some options that weren’t there before. We’ll see which one he ends up pursuing.

2021-22 Flames player evaluations

Johnny Gaudreau | Calle Jarnkrok | Matthew Tkachuk | Trevor Lewis | Jacob Markstrom | Dillon Dube | Elias Lindholm | Chris Tanev | Adam Ruzicka | Milan Lucic | Andrew Mangiapane | Tyler Toffoli | Dan Vladar | Rasmus Andersson | Brett Ritchie | Oliver Kylington | Noah Hanifin | Nikita Zadorov

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