According to Hockey Hall of Fame writer for the Edmonton Journal Jim Matheson, Arizona Coyotes defenceman Michael Stone is reportedly on the trade market. Matheson, who you can follow on Twitter @NHLbyMatty, tweeted on Friday: “Coyotes offensive D Michael Stone is apparently available. UFA in July. Would Edm be interested? Big shot”.
Though we are only 19 games into the 2016-17 season, I have no hesitation in saying this is the most talented as well as most balanced Edmonton Oilers team since 2005-06 when they went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. However, the Oilers are still a few pieces away from becoming a top tier team in the league, most importantly a right-shot offensive defenceman who can be a difference maker on the powerplay. And Stone could be that guy.
The Oilers acquired Adam Larsson in the off-season (for a moment let’s forget about who they traded for him) to be a right-shot top pairing defender who can shutdown the opposition’s best forwards. And after almost a quarter of the season, I think he’s done an excellent job in his role and has been a stabilizing presence on the Oilers’ blueline. That said, he’s not going to see his name of the score sheet often. He has produced just three points in 19 games as an Oiler (0.16 points per game), which is below his career (0.25). Larsson’s numbers will likely improve as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable in his new home, but we shouldn’t expect him to develop into a powerplay weapon for the Oilers, either.
GM Peter Chiarelli worked the phones all summer to try and acquire another top four defenceman with a powerful point shot, but ultimately he wasn’t able acquire one. In early July, the Oilers were in the hunt for RFA defenceman Tyson Barrie who was reportedly frustrated with his qualifying offer from the Colorado Avalanche and wanted out, but the asking price was reportedly too high. Stone was another name the Oilers were rumoured to be pursuing, but nothing ever came of it. Still, he’s a player I’ve thought the Oilers should try to bring in if there isn’t a better option out there in free agency or on the trade market.
Stone was selected by the Coyotes in the third round (69th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft from the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Stone played four seasons with the Hitmen, notching 52 goals and 181 points in 264 career WHL games. Stone served as team captain in his final year of major junior led the Hitmen to the 2010 WHL championship. Over the last six seasons, Stone has split time between the NHL and AHL, tallying 23 goals and 90 points in 287 career NHL games all with the Coyotes. The 6-foot-3, 210 pound defenceman has good size, can be a physical presence and possesses a cannon for point shot.
If the Oilers were to trade for Stone, Matthew Benning would likely be assigned to Bakersfield, which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing for his development, even though he hasn’t looked out of place through his first 10 games in the NHL. Given Stone’s skill set, it’s possible that he could play on the second or third pairing and first powerplay unit in Edmonton. Right now, the Oilers’ powerplay runs entirely through Connor McDavid and because the opposing penalty killers know Edmonton doesn’t have a big shot from the point to worry about, they are able to collapse down low and clog up the middle of the ice. If the Oilers had a guy like Stone would who can absolutely fire the puck, the opposition would have to focus more on him, which would open up more time and space for McDavid to work his magic and increase the team’s overall powerplay efficiency.
This is how I would envision the Oilers defensive pairings would look:
The question now becomes what would it cost the Oilers to acquire Stone? I don’t see the Oilers wanting to give up a player like Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Coyotes for Stone. The 26-year-old Winnipeg, Manitoba native is on a one-year deal worth $4 million and can become a UFA on July 1, so if Chiarelli doesn’t like the asking price he can take a shot at him next off-season when he will have more flexibility to sign free-agents with Andrew Ference‘s contract off the books. There’s also the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft in June and the Oilers would have to protect Stone if they did a trade and sign, which could be problematic for them with their internal list likely already complete. It’s been well documented that the Coyotes’ new GM John Chayka is an analytics expert and we all know how much the analytics community loves Benoit Pouliot, so maybe there’s a trade to be made there? Pouliot is capable of playing in a top six role and providing and some physicality as well, but he has struggled mightily this year and I think most Oilers fans wouldn’t be overly upset to see him go. One thing is for certain, the Oilers need to add an offensive defenceman. Stone is just one option for them, but if this still team is still in the playoff picture at the trade deadline, Chiarelli might pull the trigger.
Feel free to leave a comment if you think the Oilers should go after Stone or not. And if so, what you think it might cost Edmonton to acquire him. You can also follow me on Twitter @EricJFriesen. Thanks for reading my blog!