One of the weird things of the last month is that while a lot was written on various Wild-related subjects (32 posts in all), there were still a few big things that we forgot to cover. Take Stoner re-signing last month for example - it's one of the bigger things affecting Minnesota at a NHL level and all that we have is a half-written article. I can't remember why there's an article that was half-done and never finished but my guess would be that LaPanta-Gate and having to re-write an aborted article may have had something to do with it. That or laziness got the best of me. Regardless, it's something that along with a couple other subjects that I hope to rectify over the next few days.
|Minnesota Wild Defenseman Clayton Stoner|
Thoughts on Stoner re-upping last month after the jump...
Before Granlund Watch ended, before Dan opened up his scouting notebook and before the World Championships, Clayton Stoner signed a two-year, $2.1 million contract. From the Wild.com article all the way back on May 10th:
The Wild’s first move of the offseason locks up a tough, steady defenseman for two more seasons. Minnesota has re-signed Clayton Stoner to a two-year contract extension.Stoner, who was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL Draft (aka the A.J. Thelen one - other people drafted after Stoner by Minnesota include Ryan Jones, Aaron Boogaard and Anton Khudobin), signed despite being an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. While most players and even more agents would relish the opportunity to have 30 GMs battle against one another for their services, that's not the case with Clayton. With little experience (just over two seasons in the NHL) and health issues (the Wild defenseman has yet to play more than 57 games in a season), it makes sense that other teams may not be knocking on his door.
Coming off of his second season with the Wild in 2011-12, Stoner totaled 5 points (1+4=5) and 54 penalty minutes in 51 games. His plus-3 plus/minus rating led all Wild defenseman and was good for third on the team.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that he gets a chance to prove himself on a blue line that has an open spot or two. How good of a thing that is remains to be seen.
Another two years of keeping a 6'3", 225 lb physical defenseman is good on the surface; especially for the cost. In a year that has seen three veteran defensemen traded and the beginning of a trend towards larger D who can defend and get the puck out of the zone (Jared Spurgeon not included), Stoner holds both sides together. He's older - assuming Kurtis Foster and Mike Lundin are not re-signed, which is a good bet, the 27 year-old is the second-oldest blue liner. He's physical - something the Wild desperately missed when Clayton was out of the lineup. Most importantly, he has the backing of Mike Yeo as this quote told to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune shows.
I remember asking Yeo with a few games left in the season if the Wild could afford to re-sign Stoner considering the myriad injuries he's sustained throughout his entire pro career. Yeo said, "Can we afford not to?"And he has a point...just not the one I think the Wild coach was trying to make. While it is supposed to come off as a positive to the defenseman, I read it as the team can't do any worse and he may have a point given who they were playing at the end of the season. Minnesota is building depth with their young defensemen but after a season that saw Nick Schultz (who was traded to Edmonton at trade deadline) finish with the 3rd most games played by a defenseman by 11 games, there's work to be done.
One of those players with 11 games less than Schultz was Clayton Stoner.
Much like the Wild last season, Stoner's biggest weakness has been his ability to stay healthy. That makes it an interesting deal. He has the tools to stay in the top-six consistently as a physical, shutdown D but until Clayton can spend an entire season actually doing so it's tough to get excited about this signing. Add in the fact that Minnesota could deal to add at least 1 and more likely 2 top-four defensemen via trade or free agency this summer (something TSN agrees with in their off-season game plan) and just having Stoner come back as the second-highest D at $1.05 million is pretty frightening.
Even scarier, with Gilbert, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and a combination of Jonas Brodin, Justin Falk, Steve Kampfer and a re-signed Foster it's not out of the realm of possibility. Just that thought makes it clear why both parties would want each other and avoid free agency. Clayton Stoner adds a defender who can clear forwards out of the crease and play a solid 16-17 minutes without being a liability. However, he can't move the puck or score (a career high of 2 goals and 9 points) which remain needs that the Wild have on the blue line.
It's clear Minnesota has needs and that they will need to fix them one way or another. Re-signing Clayton Stoner to a 2 year, $2.1 million contract last month ensures that they won't have to fill another hole for more money. It's a low enough number where a good and healthy year of Stoner is a steal and more injuries don't break the bank (although the latter of course will be extremely disappointing). That's the Wild D this summer in a nutshell - one move provides a young/cheap/inexperienced blue line in 2012-2013. Two or three can build upon the foundation.
Photo credit: Associated Press