Calgary Flames Bring Back Michael Stone… Again

Michael Stone is back. The Calgary Flames recently announced the re-signing of the 32-year-old defenseman to his fourth consecutive one-year, league-minimum contract. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Winnipeg has spent the last five seasons with the Flames, registering 38 points in 180 games. The team originally acquired him in a 2017 trade with the Arizona Coyotes for a third and fifth-round draft pick.

In total, he has suited up for 504 NHL games split between the Flames and Coyotes since his debut in 2011-12. Apart from his six years with the Flames in the NHL, Stone also spent the entirety of his junior career in Calgary with the WHL’s Hitmen, where he won the WHL Championship in 2009-10.

The Stone Brothers (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

Michael is the older brother of Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone; the two squared off in the 2010 Memorial Cup Championship before meeting on various occasions in the NHL. Last season, Stone appeared in 11 regular season games for the Flames, chipping in two goals and four assists. He also played in nine playoff games, where he stepped up and brought the fans to the edge of their seats by contributing five points and some timely plays. The elder Stone had the final season of his first contract with the Flames bought out in 2019-20 but signed with them again for the league minimum. He followed that up with another one-year, league-minimum deal in 2020-21, another in 2021-22 and now one for 2022-23.

What Stone Brings to the Table

Firstly, Stone is a right-handed defenseman, one of the most valued commodities in the NHL, as approximately 60 percent of NHL rearguards shoot left. His size and physicality are not to be overlooked, as he is known for his booming shot, and he averages 156 hits per 82 games while blocking 157 shots.

From an analytics standpoint, Stone is an adequate player by all means. He has orchestrated a 49% Corsi for percentage in his six years with the Flames and topped out at 54.3 percent in 2020-21, meaning, for the most part, the team dominates puck possession whenever he is on the ice. He has started more than half of his shifts in the defensive end, meaning his coaches trust him to clear the zone and eliminate chances for the opposing team.

Michael Stone Calgary Flames
Michael Stone, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Offensively, Stone doesn’t tilt the ice too much, but he does chip in, respectively, given his bottom-pair ice time. The use of averages is because he is in and out of the lineup so much; Stone has spent plenty of time being the Flames’ seventh defenseman. Over a full 82-game season, he would, in theory, accumulate six goals and 22 points, per his career numbers thus far. Not bad for a defender who sees the ice under 17 minutes a night.

Stone puts a decent amount of rubber toward the net, averaging 125 shots per year over his 12 seasons. In essence, he provides a perfect jolt whenever he is inserted into the lineup; per game, he contributes one or two shots on goal, two hits and blocked shots, and a point every three or so games.

Stone’s Year at a Glance

So what does the 2022-23 season hold for Stone? As of right now, he is on the team to stay. The Flames recently sent down defenseman Nicolas Meloche, who many thought could shore up the blue line alongside Nikita Zadorov on the third pairing. Currently, Oliver Kylington is out for personal reasons, which is offering up some space for others to get into games. Once he returns, the situation will likely get a bit stickier. Twenty-six-year-old Connor Mackey is also with the team and will likely be jockeying with Stone for third-pairing minutes, as he has more than earned them with stellar play in the American Hockey League (AHL). Both men are on contracts that are not exempt from waivers.

To help ease what was an even stickier situation before, the Flames lost their 2017 first-round pick Juuso Valimaki via waivers to the Arizona Coyotes. Valimaki was another one-way contract that needed a home for the season, but it was an awkward situation since he wasn’t quite ready for NHL minutes but also seemingly too good for the AHL.

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For Stone’s sake, this gets some competition out of the way and betters his playing circumstances. Because he is ostensibly content with being the seventh ‘D,’ one can expect that the team will utilize him in this role once more this year. He is a leader in the locker room, can step in whenever and provide responsible play, and can also rise to the occasion should some defensemen get hurt this season, all providing wonderful value for $750,000.

In conclusion, Stone’s signing is a win-win for all parties involved. He’s stated on multiple occasions his love of playing for the Flames, and the team gains a familiar, effective veteran defender that is affordable and offers immense value on many different levels. Defensive depth is something every playoff-bound team is hunting for at the NHL Trade Deadline, but the Flames have decided to start the season with an abundance of it instead.

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