Arizona Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone just can’t stay healthy. In just his fourth game back from an injury from last season, Stone suffered an upper-body injury in Thursday night’s, left early and did not return. There has not been any official word as to the specifics or extent of the injury. Stone is considered day-to-day and is questionable for tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Stone was having a productive season in 2015-16, with 36 points in 75 games, but a knee injury in late March forced the blue liner out of the lineup. Stone ended up missing the final two weeks of the season. After undergoing surgery to repair the damaged ACL and MCL in his knee, Stone began working toward a return, but his rehab took longer than anticipated. Stone missed the entire preseason and beginning of the regular season, but finally made his way into the Coyotes lineup last week. He already has three points in three and most of a fourth game before getting injured again.
A restricted free agent after the end of last season, the negotiations between Stone and Arizona lasted well into July before the two sides agreed to just a one-year pact late in the month. Many believed that the Coyotes already had their concerns about Stone’s durability, and were uncomfortable with giving a multi-year deal to a player coming off of serious knee surgery. Thus far, their skepticism seems reasonable as Stone was not ready for the start of the season and already is hurt again. However, this creates a tough situation for a valuable player. Although Stone is not the best in his own zone, he is a top-end puck-mover when healthy, and the Coyotes have a major hole on the back end when he is not in the lineup. With a league-worst four points thus far this season, an argument can be made the the Arizona offense has struggled without Stone making plays ever night. Although Stone’s injury status is a concern, they now have to determine this season whether it is worth it to resign the right-shot possession defenseman or else let him become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, when another team will surely take that on the risk/reward associated with the 26-year-old. If Stone can bounce back from this setback quickly and stay healthy for most of the season, Arizona will surely be interested in resigning one of their better defenseman. If not, his status with the team will be a question throughout 2016-17.