UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down. Today we consider Ryan Stone.
Ryan Stone was one of the more highly-touted prospects in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, which was certainly the deepest in recent memory and has a case for being one of the deepest drafts in the history of the game. He ended up going early in the second round, 32nd overall, to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The funny thing with Stone is that his scouting report today is essentially the same as his scouting report on draft day. Penguins scout Mark Kelley, right after the Penguins drafted him, described him as a “two-way centerman who has a little bit of dirt in his game,” and that still holds true. Skating was an issue on draft day, and remains an issue now. Injuries were an issue on draft day and while I wouldn’t describe him as injury prone they’ve certainly hampered his development.
Stone adds some offence, but not a lot; he’s scored in the AHL but was snake-bit as an Oiler this year. He plays a smart positional game and likes the rough and tumble, two items which are rarities among Oilers’ forwards.
What I’d Do As G.M.
I like Stone, a lot. That’s from both a statistical angle and from watching him play this past season. He’s a guy who isn’t flashy and doesn’t have the ability to get from A to B as fast as some other players, but he makes the smart play almost all the time and adds edge to a forward corps that lacks it. He’s a tough player who can also play the game, and there’s a lot of value in that.
In Steve Tambellini’s shoes, I’d re-sign Stone on a one-way contract, possibly offering him a multi-year deal. I don’t know if Stone would take the security of something like a three year deal at league minimum, or if he’d want to gamble that he could get more money somewhere else, but I’m sold that he’s an NHL player and I think he could be a real bargain for the Oilers if they can keep the dollar figure low.
What I Expect To Happen
I’m not sure what the Oilers are going to do with Stone, but I have a bad feeling they’re going to let him walk away. Generally, we get a fairly good idea of what the Oilers think of bubble players by their public comments – for example, Jean-Francois Jacques is in a comparable situation and Steve Tambellini has made it plain how he feels about him.
I suspect that they’ll put Stone on the backburner and sign him if he’s still available and they’re still looking for bodies later in the summer.
UPDATE: I’ve been told that Stone is an RFA; capgeek.com lists him as unrestricted but at this point it’s an open question what his free agent status is.