Since joining the Calgary Flames, Michael Stone has been a big part of the team’s hot play. Stone has been a good fit on Calgary’s second defence pair, but as the days go by, Stone creeps closer to becoming a free agent.
So with contracts expiring at the end of the season and positions vacant, the Flames are going to be searching for new pieces to add to their roster. But instead of going out and looking for replacements, why not hold on to players they already have instead? Namely, Michael Stone.
Stone Fills a Need
Calgary is going to be losing not one, but two right-shot defencemen this offseason in Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland. Though neither is by any means a superstar, they’re still decent players whose spots will need to be filled.
Stone has two goals and five points in 15 games with the Flames to go along with a plus-2 rating and has proven himself to be a solid deadline pickup. Though Stone himself isn’t up to the level of Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton or T.J. Brodie, he is still a legitimate top-four defenceman on most teams in the NHL. Re-signing him means Calgary retains a defenceman just about to hit the prime of his career and they won’t have to test their luck in free agency.
A Weak Free Agent Class
Unless the Flames are interested in shelling out millions to sign Kevin Shattenkirk—which they shouldn’t be—they may not find another defenceman to fit their top-four in free agency. It’s clear at this point that right-handed defencemen are a hot commodity in the NHL and chances are the Flames could end up overpaying for a defenceman in free agency who isn’t as talented as Stone.
Cody Franson and Roman Polak are two somewhat legitimate right-handed defencemen available in free agency, but neither is a legitimate top-four defender and there aren’t many others on the list. Even if it’s not a long-term deal it would still mean the Flames don’t need to scramble and make decisions that they’ll come to regret.
Prospects Won’t Be Rushed
Something that’s too common in the NHL is bringing up a quality prospect too early and hurting his development. Just look at Curtis Lazar, who ended up on the Ottawa Senators‘ main roster far too early and after just two and a half years was traded away after not producing.
It would be a bad move for the Flames to rush up a high-end prospect like Rasmus Andersson to fill a top-four role and have him take on too much responsibility early on. That’s not to say Andersson or another prospect can’t make the Flames’ roster next year, but keeping Stone means they’re not rushed into a role for which they’re not ready yet.
Of course, this all comes at a price and it’ll need to make sense salary-wise for the Flames, but Stone definitely fills a need for the team. With the Flames continuing to build themselves into a contender for the coming years, Stone can help to add more stability to Calgary’s defence corps.
Ben is a journalism student at Ryerson University and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs.