The Calgary Flames have signed defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year contract worth $1.95MM. Michael Stone is also on his way back on a one-year deal worth $750K. PuckPedia reports Stone’s deal is one-way, unlike last year’s two-way deal.
Gudbranson, 29, has become something of a joke among analytics-leaning fans because of his brutal possession statistics, but seems to keep getting opportunities because of his size, draft pedigree, and a short stretch of success with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6’5″ right-handed shot defenseman was the third-overall pick in 2010 and has played in 563 regular season games to this point, but not many of them have been very productive. Gudbranson has just 77 points in those games, while racking up 640 penalty minutes and 1,330 hits.
Last season, playing for the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators, Gudbranson recorded four points in 45 games while averaging fewer than 18 minutes a night. That was his lowest average ice time since his rookie season, but don’t expect him to get much more in Calgary. This move gives the team some additional depth on the right side, but certainly shouldn’t eat any minutes away from Rasmus Andersson or Chris Tanev, two of the team’s most important defensemen.
Stone meanwhile isn’t even guaranteed playing time with his league-minimum contract, though he obviously brings some familiarity. The 31-year-old has spent parts of the last five seasons in Calgary, and played 21 games for them last season. All of those appearances came after Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, however, suggesting that perhaps Stone will get a chance after all. In fact, this contract is a one-way deal after he played 2020-21 on a two-way contract, meaning he’ll make that $750K no matter where he plays.
The Flames have turned to experience, grit, and size this offseason, adding players like Blake Coleman, Tyler Pitlick, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson, Nikita Zadorov, and now these two, but it’s not really clear if they’re all that much improved. It certainly looks a lot more like a Sutter roster and does have plenty of depth at all positions, but whether this mix will be more successful remains to be seen.
These signings could very well spell trouble for Calgary’s younger players, like Connor Mackey and Oliver Kylington, though both of them play the left side predominantly. There are now a lot of defensemen fighting for minutes on the back end, and even with Mark Giordano’s departure there may not be enough to go around.