Despite injuries, Michael Stone remains reliable depth on Calgary Flames blueline
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
For the past few seasons, Michael Stone has been an ace in the hole for the Calgary Flames on their back-end. A reliable veteran with a booming shot, Stone could be pressed into action due to injuries and give the Flames good minutes.
While Stone was leaned on more than usual due to injuries and Oliver Kylington’s absence, and his season was upended by some injuries of his own, when he did play, he was rock-solid.
A product of scenic Winnipeg, Stone came up in junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen and served as the team’s captain in his 19-year-old season and led the club to a WHL Championship that season. He was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft.
Going pro in 2010-11, Stone spent his first three seasons climbing his way up into the NHL from the AHL and establishing himself as a reliable two-way defender with a good shot. He cemented himself as an NHL regular with the Coyotes starting in 2013-14, and he was traded to the Flames at the 2017 trade deadline for a pair of draft picks.
Stone slowed down a little bit during his tenure with the Flames, and the emergence of some of the club’s younger blueliners – the likes of Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson – and the acquisition of Noah Hanifin reduced his anticipated role on the team below his $3.5 million cap hit. And so, he was bought out in early August 2019. A few weeks later, though, Valimaki suffered a significant knee injury and so the Flames – with the league’s approval – re-signed Stone to another deal.
Stone’s buyout and re-signing transitioned him into the current stage of his career: reliable veteran who doesn’t play all the time. Since that buyout, he’s signed one-year league-minimum deals in 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23.
Due to injuries and Connor Mackey having a tough first few games, Stone ended up a regular part of the defensive rotation in 2022-23 and he largely slotted in as the sixth defender in the hierarchy until Troy Stecher’s acquisition at the trade deadline. He played 48 games and had 11 points, playing primarily at even strength (and making occasional appearances on the penalty kill and rare appearances on the power play). He played primarily with Nikita Zadorov on the third pairing.
48 games represented the most games that Stone had played since 2017-18 – he would have played even more if not for a 10-game injury absence in November and another 20-game absence between February and March. When he played, he was fine.
Is he a great shutdown defender? Nope. Is he an offensive dynamo? Also nope. But Stone knew the system, knew his teammates, and provided solid minutes. For a low-cost veteran on the third pairing, Stone provided what the Flames needed him to. He didn’t exceed expectations, but he didn’t do much to disappoint either.
Stone turns 33 in June and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He admitted on locker clean-out day that his family situation – he has a wife and young kids – make it so that Calgary is the best spot for him. If he wants to keep playing, and is fine with being a depth guy on an inexpensive deal, he’s a great fall-back option for the organization and allows some of their young defenders – Ilya Solovyov, Yan Kuznetsov and Jeremie Poirier – to keep developing with the Wranglers.
The Flames will continue to have a tight salary cap situation for another season (or two). Even if Stone isn’t quite what he used to be, having him as an “in case of emergency, break glass” option on the blueline is still a benefit to the club.
Letter Grade: C+
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