Death, Taxes, and Michael Stone re-signing in Calgary

The Calgary Flames fanbase has an ongoing joke that nothing is certain except death, taxes, and Micheal Stone. However, that joke has begun to hold a certain amount of truth to it, as defenseman Micheal Stone has signed his fifth contract with the club.

The start of hockey season in Calgary can be made apparent by several signs throughout the city. Trees start to turn shades of red and yellow, the temperature starts to drop, the demand for ‘double-doubles’ at Tim Hortons goes through the roof, and more recently, the Calgary Flames announce the re-signing of defenseman, Michael Stone.

This preseason proved to be no different, as Stone, putting pen to paper, signed another one-year deal with the club on Oct. 11. For most teams in the NHL, the signing of a bottom-pairing defenseman generates a lacklustre response at most. But in Calgary, the news sent the fanbase into a tizzy.

When he first arrived in Calgary, via trade with Arizona, not much was known about the Winnipeg native. Stone was essentially a trade deadline acquisition that saw a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 fifth-round pick head to Arizona. At the time, the Flames were vying for a wildcard spot and needed a defenseman to help polish up their backend, so Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving pulled the trigger on the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent (UFA).

Flames Get
Michael Stone
Coyotes Get
2017 3rd round pick (78th Overall)
2018 5th round pick (136th Overall)

While the situation seemed eerily similar to some recent moves the Flames have made the trade deadline (I’m looking at you, Erik Gustafsson, Derek Forbort, Ryan Carpenter, and Calle Jarnkrok) where the player hits the open market in the offseason, Stone stuck around and signed a three-year extension with the club in 2017.

Per CapFriendly, Stone’s first contract with the club was bought out after his second full season as a Flame. The reasoning for the move was simple enough. The club was looking to stay within the salary cap, and buying Stone out was the obvious answer. Stone would then be re-signed to a one-year, league-minimum deal by the Flames just 40-days later.

Following his one-year deal for the 2019-20 season, Stone once again entered the free agency pool as a UFA. Ahead of the 2020-21 season, the Flames would sign Stone to another one-year, league-minimum deal.

Following his one-year deal for the 2020-21 season, Stone once again entered the free agency pool as a UFA. Ahead of the 2021-22 season, the Flames would sign Stone to another one-year, league-minimum deal.

Following his one-year deal for the 2021-22 season, Stone once again entered the free agency pool as a UFA. Ahead of the 2022-23 season, the Flames would sign Stone to another one-year, league-minimum deal.

Was that a typo?

Nope.

Since joining the team in 2017, Stone has signed four separate contracts with the club. This is where the running gag, “Death, Taxes, and Micheal Stone,” coined by the Flames community, stems from.

Although the yearly signings may seem silly, it’s a smart move by the Flames’ management.

It’s clear that Stone has enjoyed his time as a member of the Calgary Flames. That’s most likely why he’s chosen to sign with the club in four different installments at the league minimum. I am more than confident that if Stone was looking for a change in scenery, he would have left without a goodbye. As a matter of fact, Stone should have been able to secure a contract with another club for a higher price as well. If former Flame, Erik Gudbranson, could sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets for $4 million a season, Stone would have had no issues finding a contract in the $1-2 million range.

Nonetheless, signing Stone on a year-to-year basis is a perfect case scenario for the club. At the end of the day, Stone is still a depth defender and is highly expendable. Hypothetically, if Stone’s value and performance were to tank, the Flames are in a great position as they have no attachment after the season concludes. Both parties can walk away freely without any extra baggage.

While it started as a joke about the Flames’ management being unable to part ways with their seventh defenseman, Stone has seriously turned some heads following last season’s playoff run and the opening fistful of games this year.

Scratch that. Stone has been doing more than turning heads. He’s evolving into a fan favourite across the franchise.

It was during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs that Stone first put his name on the map. In his nine postseason appearances, Stone found himself tied for second in points among the Flames’ defence with two goals and three assists. It quickly became apparent that the 210 Ibs d-man had something in his arsenal that no other Flames skater shared. A cannon of a shot. Stone’s patented blueline bombs generated scoring opportunities for his teammates and eventually lead to both of his postseason goals.

Brand new contract in hand, Stone’s rampage continued into this season as he beat out Connor Mackey and former Flame, Juuso Valimaki, for the sixth defence slot ahead of the Flames’ season opener.

As of Oct. 28, the 32-year-old is proving he’s worth every single penny (and more) of his contract. With two goals and three assists in six games this season, he is tied for third in points across the entire team and in second in points across defensemen.

With 0.833 points per game as a defenseman (P/GP) and an annual cap hit of just $750,000, the Flames’ deal with Stone may be one of the best contracts in the NHL. While a very bold claim for a depth defenseman, it’s difficult to ignore and not be impressed by his recent performances.

The only question that remains unanswered is what will happen if Oliver Kylington, who is currently away from the club due to personal matters, returns to the club. If the Swedish defenseman is to come back this season, Stone may find himself fighting for ice time, once again.