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RFA Week: Mark Stone

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This week at Silver Seven, we're looking ahead at the Senators crop of restricted free agents - all important players for the future of the organization in one way or another. Here's the third piece, on winger Mark Stone.

This seems like an unsafe game of jump rope
This seems like an unsafe game of jump rope
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Out of all of the RFAs we're looking at this week, Mark Stone may be the biggest success. The Winnipeg native is the Senators only success from the 2010 draft and was taken in the 6th (!) round. Usually, when players go this low, it's because a team is taking a shot in the dark at something a scout saw or they really like 1-2 tools that a player has, despite deficiencies in others. Don't underestimate the influence of luck with a late round draft pick either. Here's Bob Lowes, the Senators Western league scout who often gets credit for the drafting of Stone:

"To be honest, I didn't know that he would be that good," said the Regina-based Lowes, who scouts the Western Hockey League for the Senators. "But I thought with his size (6-2, 188 pounds), with his hockey sense and he had enough of a skill set ... he would be able to find a fourth-line checking role. He exceeded that, obviously."

As you can see, Stone's career took off after he was drafted and given an expanded role in Brandon. He finished in the top-10 of WHL scoring, made Team Canada, and came into Ottawa with a ton of promise. If you compare Stone with many of the Senators draft picks from 2011 - just a year later - you get to really see how advanced Stone is as a player. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Shane Prince, and Matt Puempel are only a year younger than Stone, but for whatever reason have had a harder time establishing themselves as permanent NHL players. Fellow "rookie" Mike Hoffman is three years older than Stone, and given that an NHL forward usually peaks in production around 24-25 may hint at the fact that we've seen Hoffman's peak whereas we're now just entering Stone's. Stone is currently the best forward on the term in terms of Corsi. Rel, which looks at a player's shot attempt differential relative to the team, and can play a variety of roles in the lineup - from first line winger with Kyle Turris to part of a shutdown defensive unit, which he was part of frequently in Binghamton.

This evidence - Stone's NHL pedigree, strong junior career, and development in terms of his age relative to production curves - is why I think Stone may be someone the Senators should roll the dice on and sign to a long-term deal. Finding comparables for Stone was a bit tricky. I used Hockey Reference's play index to create search conditions around a) forwards since the 2004-05 lockout, b) their first five years of NHL play (Stone has "played" three, despite his low number of actual NHL games played), c) 50+ games played, and d) a points per game of 0.30+. This left me with 241 names, which you can see here. When actually selecting the players to use below, I tried to find similar players in terms of the amount of NHL games played going into their second contracts. Thus, the "term" below looks at the total salary in each player's second contract (after his entry-level deal) - so Matthieu Perreault and Nikolai Kulemin's deals are not their current ones as they have been in the league for a number of years now.

Player

DOB

Draft position

Games Played

PPG

Term

Mark Stone

1992

6th round

62

0.45

Cam Atkinson

1989

6th round

62

0.52

2 years/$2.3M

Nathan Gerbe

1987

5th round

84

0.44

2 years/$3M

Charlie Coyle

1992

1st round

148

0.42

3 years/$8M

Mathieu Perreault

1988

6th round

56

0.41

2 years/$2.1M

Chris Kreider

1991

1st round

126

0.48

2 years/$4.95M

Nikolai Kulemin

1986

2nd round

151

0.44

2 years/$4.7M

Kyle Turris

1989

1st round

231

0.45

5 years/$17.5M

(Note: Contract information from NHLNumbers, probably the best source for this type of information since Capgeek is no more)

As you can see, the biggest risk factor for Stone is his lack of NHL experience. Due to injuries, Stone has only played 62 NHL games, with is 9th in his draft class if you exclude first round picks. Atkinson, Gerbe, and Perreault were all late round picks with a similar amount of games played and points/game rate, and all three received two year deals with an AAV of $1-1.5M per year. This is generally a smart thing to do as the organizational mindset is "well, these guys weren't ranked really high on our lists on draft day but they've developed well. Let's see how they continue to do." This mentality re: draft position is why I included it as a column in the table above, and it's interesting to see that the two players who got deals longer than two years were both first round draft choices. Coyle and Turris, the players in question, along with Nikolai Kulemin and Chris Kreider all received the most amount of money on our list, but I'm hesitant to infer whether it's because of draft position or the amount of NHL games played, as those four players had played more games and thus, were better bets to make as the organization "knew" what they were getting into more.

Where does that leave Stone? Of all the players listed above, it's hard to find someone with the "complete game" Stone has. He plays a solid chunk of minutes at even-strength, but importantly features on both special teams, with around 2 minutes/game on the powerplay and 1.5 minutes/game on the penalty kill. Most of the players above feature on only one of the special teams units. He's a very responsible player, and I like to think of Stone as what a modern NHL winger should look like: produce at a decent clip, very solid defensively, and can help drive possession. For a budget team like the Senators, it may be a smart bet to ink Stone to a deal similar to Kyle Turris' with a little less AAV (5 years, $3M per?), though given the precedent, I wouldn't be surprised with a two year deal while the organization waits to see if Stone can consistently produce at an NHL level.

What do you think the Senators should do?