When we last checked in on Ryan Stone, we found out that he had undergone a second surgery to repair his damaged knee, and he would be in a boot for two months. The latest update on Stone is that he's out of the boot and "walking perfectly." He has yet to resume workouts, however, he is still on pace to be 100% for training camp in September. It's good news for Stone, a player that has suffered a number of injuries in his young career. It's also good news for Oiler fans and Oiler management. However, the news on Stone isn't all rosy.
I've also confirmed our (the group of authors here) view that Stone will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Stone qualifies as a Group 6 Player, outlined in section 10.1 (c) of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement:
(i) Means any Player who is age 25 or older who has completed three (3) or more professional seasons, whose SPC has expired and: (i) in the case of a Player other than a goaltender, has played less than 80 NHL Games, or (ii) in the case of a goaltender, has played less than 28 NHL Games (for the purpose of this definition, a goaltender must have played a minimum of thirty (30) minutes in an NHL Game to register a game played). For the purposes of the foregoing, the term professional season shall: (A) for a Player aged 18 or 19, mean any season in which such Player plays in eleven (11) or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC), and (B) for a Player aged 20 or older, mean any season in which such Player plays in one or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC).
(ii) Any Group 6 Player shall, at the expiration of his SPC, become an Unrestricted Free Agent and shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction, or being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.
The last group 6 player that the Oilers had to make a decision on was Curtis Glencross. In his now-infamous negotiations, the club and the player were far apart on terms and Kevin Lowe thought it best to let Glencross walk, much to the dismay of the fanbase.
Ryan Stone has much the same reputation with the fans as Curtis Glencross did. To the fans of advanced stats, he's one of the few Oilers that had the puck moving in the right direction last season, albeit in a limited amount of time. For the fans of the traditional view of the game, he was full of piss and vinegar, second on the team in hits per game, and always-willing to stick up for his teammates. For fans concerned about the salary cap, Stone should have a very reasonable cap hit, and reasonable contracts are something the cap-strapped Oilers lack.
There's another team just down the highway that is also lacking reasonable contracts and the last time this happened, they swooped in to pull a Group 6 UFA out from under the Oilers' noses, and this time the player is Calgary-born and raised. How Steve Tambellini and his newly-found clarity handle this situation may give us hints as to how the rest of the off-season will go, and if Stone ends up a wing on the third line for the Flames, the teeth-gnashing will begin anew.