With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that are likely to be dealt by March 1st.
Things weren’t supposed to go this way for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone. After signing just a one year contract in the summer, he was hoping for a big season to take him into his first crack at unrestricted free agency. That has yet to happen while the Coyotes are nowhere near a playoff spot which makes him a prime candidate to be traded.
One year, $4MM – Will be a UFA in July
Stone missed the first three games of the season while recovering from a torn ACL sustained back in late March. While he was able to reassume a top four role upon returning to the lineup, he hasn’t been able to maintain the offensive progress he had displayed in recent years. It could be suggested that part of that is attributable to the arrival of Alex Goligoski but even so, the decline in Stone’s offensive game is quite notable.
A couple of areas that haven’t been affected this season are his willingness to play physical and block shots as he’s averaging over two of each per game while he’s still logging over 20 minutes per game. Those are all elements that contenders would love to add to their back end so despite his struggles, he should still have several teams interested in him.
35 GP, 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, -9 rating, 8 PIMS, 45 shots, 20:19 ATOI
A top four defender that plays the right side is something that pretty much any team with eyes on seriously contending would want to add. The Lightning showed interest in him earlier in the year but GM John Chayka’s asking price was too high at the time. The Rangers could be a team to watch for as well – they have a void on their back end and have the money to absorb his cap hit in full. Considering the number of contending teams that are tight to the cap, that’s certainly an important factor.
In the West, the Blackhawks would undoubtedly love to add another top four blueliner to take some of the pressure off their top pairing but they don’t have the cap space to make it work with Arizona retaining or Chicago sending a contract back. While Edmonton’s defense is much improved this year, they could still stand to add a top four option and like the Rangers, they have the cap space to fit him in easily as well.
One darkhorse team to watch for if they continue their hot streak is the Maple Leafs. While trading for a rental player would go against standard practice for a team that’s still building, Stone would give Toronto a stabilizing presence on a thin blueline, something that they will need if they want to make a serious run at a playoff spot. They have the prospect capital and some extra second round picks to work with as well. The Leafs make sense as a landing spot for Stone in free agency so if he’s on their radar, it’s conceivable that they could look to add him now to not only help a postseason push but also for the chance to see how he would fit in before potentially making him a long-term offer in the offseason.
Likelihood Of A Trade
Considering that the team already has Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, and Connor Murphy signed for at least two more years plus a pair of promising youngsters in Jakob Chychrun and Anthony DeAngelo, it’s unlikely that the Coyotes will pursue a long-term contract extension with Stone. Unless Chayka’s asking price remains too high through the March 1st trade deadline, he’s pretty much a lock to be dealt.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.