Calgary Flames

Projecting Oliver Kylington’s next contract with the Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are in the middle of a pivotal offseason. After finishing first in the Pacific Division and reaching the second round of the playoffs, many key players are up for contract extensions. While most attention is understandably paid to the big names of Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, they are not the only players looking for a raise this offseason.

Oliver Kylington, a staple in the top-four defensive group for the vast majority of the season, is also in need of a big raise. His breakout season was a huge part of the Flames’ success, and management will want to do everything they can to retain him at as low a cost against the cap as possible.

Kylington’s 2021–22 season performance

Kylington took a huge step in 2021–22, his first full season in the NHL. Playing the majority of his minutes alongside Chris Tanev, it was his first taste of NHL gameplay not on the bottom pair. Apparently the challenge suited him, as he shattered his previous career-high of eight points.


He also averaged over 18 minutes of ice time per game, good for fourth among defencemen on the team. At just 25 years old, he finally lived up to the hype that surrounded him at the 2015 draft.

His underlying numbers were also strong, according to numbers from With Kylington on the ice, the Flames controlled 55.8% of the expected goals at even strength. They also controlled 55.4% of shot attempts.

This translated into being on the ice for an impressive 28 more goals for than against at even strength. In all-situations, this improves further to 40 more goals scored than allowed. Clearly his presence is extremely beneficial to the team, even if those numbers are helped by playing with Tanev.

Kylington’s career performance so far

Now in his seventh pro season in North America, Kylington has shown improvement each year. In the AHL with the Stockton Heat, his offensive potential has always been apparent. Over time, it has been realized.

Entry-level contract

Because he did not play enough NHL games to have a year of his entry level deal pass, his contract slid twice, meaning he was on his first contract for five seasons, despite it only being a three-year contract. His statistics from Stockton reflect improvement in offence each year of the deal.


While its difficult to assess his defensive growth in that time due to limited data, former Stockton Heat and current Flames coach Ryan Huska has been very complimentary of his defensive development during his AHL tenure.

At the NHL level, things didn’t progress quite as quickly over the course of the entry-level deal.


It’s probably fair to say Kylington could have scored more points with more minutes, as he played between 12 and 14 minutes per night between 2018 and 2020. But, you have to earn those minutes, and he didn’t. His play was passable in a third pair role, but for a team pushing to improve each year, it was simply not good enough to crack the roster full time.

As a result, he earned only a very small contract after his ELC expired.

First one-year extension

After his entry level deal, Kylington signed a one-year extension worth $787,500. He spent most of his time that season on the taxi squad, unable to solidify his position in the lineup. He even cleared waivers at the start of the season, a testament to how quickly his stock has risen since then.


Second one-year extension

Following a disappointing 2021, some expected Kylington had played his last game as a Flame, and he even went unclaimed on waivers. But, he signed another one-year extension, paying him even less at just $750K—the league minimum salary. That deal turned out to be incredibly team-friendly as he broke out into the offensive defencemen it was long hoped he could become.

His 31 points came almost exclusively at even strength, as he played very little on the power play or penalty kill. 93% of his ice time came at even strength, with less than 80 minutes of power play time total.


It’s noteworthy that in this breakout season Kylington played alongside Chris Tanev, one of the league’s best shutdown defencemen. His ability to defend the rush and protect the slot in his own end allow Kylington to take risks joining the rush that he couldn’t with another partner. The team likely views this as a knock on Kylington’s value.

Until he proves he can be a top-four defencemen regardless of partner, the cost to re-sign him should be relatively low for the value he provides.

Comparable contracts

Kylington is a pretty unique case. His sudden breakout after so many years in the AHL is difficult to compare to other players, because so few defencemen follow that path. One player with a similar trajectory is Brandon Montour. A second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks one year before Kylington was selected, he developed in the USHL, NCAA, and AHL before getting his NHL start.

While he played in more leagues than Kylington, the timeline from their draft to playing regular NHL minutes is similar. In Montour’s rookie season, he struggled offensively, but, he broke out for 32 points in 80 games the following season. Like Kylington, it was a burst of offence that aligned with his junior and minor pro development.

Unlike Kylington, Montour had just 107 NHL games to his name following that breakout sophomore season. Kylington has 168 games of experience. Montour was also roughly a year younger than Kylington at the time of his breakout. He ended up signing as a restricted free agent following that season for two years at $3,387,500. With the minor salary cap increase since the time that deal was signed, it would translate to $3,514,500 under today’s cap.

Projecting Kylington’s next contract

Based on his performance and the comparable contract, I would expect Kylington to sign a short bridge deal. After years of playing for very low salary (in NHL terms), he is finally nearing unrestricted free agency. One more RFA deal will walk him to free agency where he can negotiate more effectively for a higher wage.

In the meantime, the Flames are right up against the cap and will prefer to keep the term and dollars as small as possible, as a long term commitment likely means a higher cap hit. Considering he is slightly older than Montour and plays fewer minutes on special teams and overall than Montour did at the time he signed, it’d be reasonable for Kylington’s deal to end up having a lower cap hit than Montour’s.

With that in mind, I’ll predict his deal comes in at two years, at around $3M. That’s a bargain for a top-four defenceman, but with the reality of the restricted free agency system, is a plausible projection.

The Flames’ defence relies on Kylington

All season, Darryl Sutter has preached the need to play fast. On the back end, however, there is a general lack of footspeed. Players like Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson are extremely effective, but lack high-end speed.

Kylington is unique in his explosiveness among Flames’ defencemen, and that explosiveness is needed to attack off the rush. Not only that, but it can be useful to have speed to match up against opponents who play fast.

But even more importantly, losing Kylington opens a hole on the back end the team could likely not fill for less money via trade or free agency. With cap space at a premium, the team can’t afford to lose a relatively inexpensive restricted free agent who can effectively play in the top-four.

While it’s nowhere near as pressing as the Gaudreau or Tkachuk extensions, Kylington is an integral part of the team, and management would be wise to re-sign him as quickly as possible.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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