Stone Thriving During Stressful Flames Tryout … Again
Michael Stone is all in on the Calgary Flames.
He has been for years.
And it’s hard to imagine the 32-year-old’s story ending any differently than it has the last few years. Stone is on a second straight PTO — a tryout contract — which can be terminated at any time. But he has also signed one-year deals with the Calgary Flames for three straight seasons. He’s even been bought out and re-signed in the same offseason.
To put it bluntly, Stone has been through it all and continues to thrive in spite of the constant state of uncertainty.
“I’m always stressed!” he said with a smirk after scoring a goal and adding an assist in his second preseason game.
He also scored the overtime winner in his first one.
As Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter tries to figure out his regular-season defence pairings through preseason trial and error, he knows he has the perfect seventh man waiting for another opportunity to do what he always does.
“Be a good teammate. Play well when I get a chance to play and try and make the most of it,” he said. “This is not a new position for me. I’m just here playing like I know how I can play. It’s just the way I have to approach it. It’s alright.
“I’m hanging on, really. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Despite playing just 65 games in the last three seasons combined, Stone has looked good when those rare and often brief opportunities come. He has six goals and 17 points in that span — which is pretty good for a plug-and-play guy who barely gets into game situations and doesn’t see a lot of minutes when he does.
When stalwart Chris Tanev was hurt in the playoffs last season, Stone stepped in admirably. The team was overwhelmed by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round, but Stone earned a pair of goals and five points in those nine bonus games.
He’s become somewhat of a folk hero in Calgary.
And the Calgary Flames are his only focus. He’s not thinking any further than this tryout, even though a good preseason performance could lead to opportunities elsewhere.
“To be honest, I haven’t even really paid much attention to that,” said Stone, who has three school-aged children here. “I feel like I’m here and I come to the rink like I always do. That doesn’t really matter,” he said. “Hopefully, things work out the way I would like them to.
“I’d like to stick around here and I’d like to stay in this organization. That’s why I’m here.”
One thing few talk about is an AHL contract with the Calgary Wranglers. The franchise will enjoy having its farm team close to home for the first time after moving the AHL operations from Stockton after the Heat’s playoff run.
The Calgary Flames have 10 defencemen on one-way deals. Even without Oliver Kylington, who is out indefinitely dealing with a personal family issue, moves to the minors will have to be made. That could mean losing some to waivers. The Flames may also deal one or two away to address a need at forward.
But given the recent history and how great Stone has been at that seventh-man role for so many years, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to bet on him the most likely PTO performer to get another NHL contract.