With the Rangers sputtering, anticipation is quickly building for the March 1 trade deadline. Unlike in past years, New York is set up front, so it’s hard to fathom a deal for another forward. But it’s no secret that the Rangers desperately need help on defense and have been searching for a top-four blueliner for much of the season.
The options are limited, but one name that appears likely to be on the move is Arizona’s Michael Stone. He wouldn’t be the sexy acquisition many crave, but the pending free agent might help fortify the back-end.
Stone, 26, broke out last season with 36 points (six goals, 30 assists) including 14 power play assists. That performance helped him earn a new $4 million contract for this season, but Stone has struggled to match that production.
Part of the reason is that Stone missed the first few weeks of the season recovering from surgery to repair ACL and MCL damage suffered last April. The other is that Stone has fallen down the depth chart behind summer acquisitions Alex Goligoski and Luke Schenn, as well as emerging youngsters Jakob Chychrun and Anthony DeAngelo. DeAngelo was recently returned to the minors, paving the way to more playing time for Stone, but DeAngelo is clearly a big part of the Coyotes’ future.
For some more background on Stone, I sent a few questions to Brendan Porter of Five For Howling:
Q: How has Stone’s recovery been from surgery?
A: Stone has recovered well since ACL/MCL surgery; he doesn’t look like he’s lost too much from where he was pre-injury. His fall down the depth chart is less about his health and more about the acquisition of Schenn and the early-season play of DeAngelo. With those two in the lineup, and with some unrelated injury problems in the season’s early goings, Stone has been on the outside looking in.
Q: What’s your opinion of Stone’s career arc at this point?
A: I think Stone is a third-pairing defenseman who can play both special teams and on the second pairing in a pinch. He benefited from being the go-to guy outside of Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Arizona’s system, but that role has largely seemed to elude him with Schenn and DeAngelo on the right and Chychrun on the left.
Q: What are his strengths and weaknesses?
A: Stone is absolutely fearless; he’ll pinch in the offensive zone and block shots in the defensive zone with reckless abandon. It makes him a minute-eating machine and highly versatile defenseman, but also comes with all of the requisite risks. Still, he’s a defenseman more in the mold of the modern NHL than other bottom-half defensemen.
Q: Are you of the opinion that Arizona won’t re-sign Stone and will look to deal him? If so, what would you expect for a return?
A: I think the writing is now on the wall that Stone is on his way out. The Coyotes and Stone nearly went the distance on salary arbitration last offseason, and struck a one-year, $4 million deal to avoid it. And with the emergence of Chychrun on the left side and Kyle Wood’s solid season in the AHL on the right side, I think the Coyotes are comfortable letting Stone go at the deadline or in the offseason.
At the end of the day, Stone is 26, 6′ 3″, and about 205 pounds. He’s a right-handed defenseman with a track record of producing points. Given Arizona has no 2nd rounders in 2018 and New York has two, Stone for a 2018 second would be a nice trade for the Coyotes. I think a second and/or third-rounder is what he eventually goes for, but given how much the Stars paid for Kris Russell just a season ago, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Stone went for more than one or two draft picks.
Big thanks to Brendan for the help with this post – be sure to check out his site!"Trade target: Michael Stone",