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Is Stone PTO Sign of NHL Trades to Come, or Reward for Loyalty?

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Death. Taxes. Michael Stone signing a late deal with Calgary Flames.

These are unflinching rules.

Signed to a PTO this week — a tryout — there’s no guarantee Stone will be part of the franchise he has been with longer than all but two current Flames.

With 10 defencemen on one-way deals at the moment, the move could be considered symbolic. A reward for a player who has been a good soldier for a Calgary Flames team during a wild journey.

Stone now has an opportunity to showcase his skills in the pre-season. He could impress another team and sign with them once released by the Flames. Without a PTO, it’s much tougher for the ‘fringe’ player to find a home for the season.

But don’t be surprised if he somehow finds his way back to the Calgary Flames press box on a fourth consecutive one-year deal if GM Brad Treliving pulls the trigger on a trade that sends a defenceman or two out in return for more forward depth.

Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, MacKenzie Weegar, Oliver Kylington, Nikita Zadorov, Connor Mackey, Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Meloche and Dennis Gilbert are all on one-way deals. On the NHL trade market, Hanifin would have significant value. Kylington is also at a sell-high spot after his breakout season. Valimaki still has some of the cache of a first-round draft pick and may have some suitors as well.

Without any moves, it’s a four-way battle for the seventh spot. All of them must clear waivers to be sent down. Logistically, odds aren’t in Stone’s favour.

Then again, he’s beaten the odds repeatedly in his time with the Calgary Flames.

Signed to a three-year, $10.5-million deal after joining them via trade, Stone was bought out after two. That second season included a serious blood clot, and a whole lot of healthy scratches once he came back. After the buyout, the team re-signed him to a one-year deal. And then another. Then a third.

All around league minimum.

He sat and watched nearly all season. Patiently, he waited for an opportunity. The biggest one came in the post-season.

Stone had six points (two goals, four assists) in 11 regular-season games last year. The 32-year-old added five points (two goals, three assists) in an impressive nine games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring when stalwart Chris Tanev went down with a severe shoulder injury in the first round.

According to Treliving, Tanev is on track toward full participation in camp, pending physical clearance. That would dull Stone’s chances to be the seventh man even further.

Whatever happens, the former Calgary Hitmen blue-liner has made this city home. But if he can’t sign here, there’s hope he finds a temporary dwelling somewhere else before coming back.

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