GLENDALE – Defenseman Michael Stone signed a one-year contract with the Coyotes on Thursday, a week before a scheduled salary arbitration hearing.
|Michael Stone. Photo by Norm Hall. |
"I had an injury at the end of the season and that was the length (of the contract) we felt comfortable with from all sides," said Stone, who suffered damaged ligaments in his left knee during the game played March 26 vs. Philadelphia. "I would love to be (with the Coyotes) long-term. That is a goal for me. I love it here. Hopefully, eventually, that's something we can work out."
Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said the team is committed to Stone.
"We discussed some longer-term options and there wasn’t a whole lot of symmetry on those discussions, so at this point it just made sense to have him come back fully recovered and have him kind of replicate his performance (from last season)," Chayka said. "We still view Michael Stone as a long-term player for the Coyotes. Right now wasn’t the time to execute on that vision, and I think he shares that vision with us based off my discussions with his agent. It's certainly something that we can revisit."
Stone, 26, notched six goals and doubled his career-high in assists (30) last season, and led the team with 143 blocked shots in 75 games. NHL.com recently named him one of 40 "Breakout Players" in 2015-16. At the end of the season, he was named the team's Man of the Year for for his dedication, commitment and passion for bettering the lives of those in the community.
"He's well liked by his coaches and teammates, and he bought into what the coaching staff is trying to accomplish and teach," Chayka said. “"He’s also one of our best guys in the community, a real good person on and off the ice, and a good player."
Stone returned to Arizona on Wednesday night to continue his recovery from knee surgery. He has been running but has yet to skate. That will come in the "near future," he said.
"Things are a little uncertain with my injury and how things are going to go in the future, so the one-year deal gives me an opportunity to prove myself again and hopefully we can look at something (longer) down the road," Stone said.
He added: "I think my knee is coming along nicely. I'm back in Arizona and I will continue the rehab and get ready for training camp. I've never had a major injury before so I'm going through this new and not really understanding what's going to happen. Whenever I'm ready to go I'll be ready to go."
|Michael Stone. Photo by Getty Images. |
The Coyotes begin the 2016-17 season on Oct. 15 at home vs. Philadelphia. Stone hopes to play in that game but isn’t sure if that will happen.
"I have no idea," Stone said. "I'm pushing hard to be ready for the beginning of the season. Whether that happens or not is only somewhat in my control. Your legs are what you use 100 percent of the time on the ice so you have to be ready to go. We'll see what happens with that."
With Stone – and defenseman Connor Murphy – recently re-signed, Chayka can dedicate more attention to re-signing forward Tobias Rieder, the team’s last remaining unsigned restricted free agent.
"We’ve still got some work to do on him," Chayka said.