Top Trades, Landing Spots for Blue Jackets Defenseman Seth Jones

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2021

Top Trades, Landing Spots for Blue Jackets Defenseman Seth Jones

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    It's not the "welcome back to Columbus" present that John Davidson was hoping for.

    Back in mid-Ohio for his second stint in the Blue Jackets front office, Davidson was contacted by Seth Jones and his representatives with the message that the defenseman isn't interested in re-signing with the team.

    Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the news during Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

    "Jones informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he will not be re-signing," Friedman said. "Now I'm saying for now at this point because I don't like to deal in absolutes, but it does appear as if he is prepared to test free agency, and we'll see how Columbus decides to handle this over the next little while."

    Jones is signed for one more season at $5.4 million on the six-year deal he agreed to in 2016.

    He was drafted fourth overall by the Nashville Predators in 2013 and signed that contract after a trade sent him to Columbus in the final year of his entry-level deal. He's scored 50 goals and posted 123 points with the Blue Jackets across 381 games in parts of six seasons and was a second-team All-Star in 2017-18.

    Davidson returned as president of hockey operations after he was let go by the New York Rangers on May 5.

    Columbus was last in the Central Division with an 18-26-12 record in 2020-21, and coach John Tortorella was not rehired upon the expiration of his contract.

    The B/R hockey team took a look at the tumult at Nationwide Arena and reacted in kind, compiling a list of the top trades and/or landing spots for a 26-year-old presumably in the prime of his career.

    Take a look at what we came up with, and drop a thought of your own in the comments.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Maybe it's just a temporary thing.

    Maybe after he reflects on the good times, it will all blow over.

    Seth Jones wouldn't be the first athlete to go public with a trade demand—or in this case, an assertion that he would like to test the market when the time comes—before changing his mind and staying put.

    So it should surprise exactly no one if this story is resolved with a long-term deal.

    And it's not as if there wouldn't be reason for him to stay.

    The Blue Jackets are brimming with recently acquired front-line talent and hold three first-round picks in this summer's draft, which would suggest a prodigious rise from the 2020-21 disaster is within reason. They will begin next season with a new coach too, and the hiring could be a bellwether of where this thing ends up.

    It might not look so good right now, but reconciliation is never too far away.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    It's no secret the Flyers are looking for a defenseman.

    They lost right-side stalwart Matt Niskanen to a sudden retirement shortly before the 2020-21 season and subsequently saw their goals-against stats rise, with the trio of Brian Elliott, Carter Hart and Alex Lyon combining to allow 189 goals in 56 games—an average of 3.38 per game.

    They are frequently included on lists of would-be suitors for Carolina's Dougie Hamilton should he test the free-agency waters this summer, and Jones' arrival on the trade market—particularly with the backstory of him apparently wanting to leave Columbus—makes him nearly as enticing a target.

    Hamilton, meanwhile, is widely expected to remain where he is.

    Hamilton, at 27 and 6'6", is a year older and two inches taller than Jones, who was drafted two years later in 2013. The Hurricanes got 40 points in 47 games from Hamilton this season, while Jones scored five goals and 28 points across 56 games.

    Still, Jones' most prolific season with the Blue Jackets—in 2017-18—ended with more assists (41) and points (57) than Hamilton has produced since debuting in 2012-13.

    If he's wearing orange and black when things get going this fall, it won't just be Gritty who's happy.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    It's time for Ken Holland to make his mark.

    The Edmonton Oilers GM has been hamstrung by salary-cap concerns since arriving in Alberta two years ago, but he's flush with cash this offseason thanks to several onerous contracts coming off the books.

    The team took a successful dip in the free-agency pool last summer with the signing of Tyson Barrie to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million, but Barrie is in line for an even bigger score this time around after leading all NHL defensemen in points and looks poised to test the market beyond Alberta.

    Bringing Jones into the fold would soften that blow.

    He's younger, taller and heavier than Barrie and would have a chance to reinflate his stats by sharing the ice with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the league's top two scorers in 2020-21. In fact, nearly half of Barrie's 48 points came on the Edmonton power play, best in the NHL for the second straight season.

    Make a deal, put him on the blue line for the next several years, and watch McDavid's post-playoff mood improve.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    There are places where Jones could be the final piece.

    And others where he would be among the first.

    The Red Wings represent the latter scenario following a season in which their 48 standings points were tied for fourth-worst in a 31-team league. In fact, they tied the Blue Jackets for the bottom spot in the Central Division—winning just 19 of 56 games and scoring the second-fewest goals (125) in the league.

    The flip side to the recent run of futility is GM Steve Yzerman's willingness to use personnel to improve his roster. He's stockpiled 29 picks across the next three drafts—including four first-rounders—and has substantial salary-cap space to boot. All of which could be used to strike a deal with Columbus.

    Presuming he could get Jones to commit to something beyond the year remaining on his existing deal, it's easy to get excited about him and towering 20-year-old Moritz Seider—the sixth overall pick in 2019holding down the Detroit blue line for the next several years.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    It's a good time to be in Winnipeg.

    The Jets rebounded from an abysmal skid at the close of the regular season to oust the heavily favored Edmonton Oilers from the postseason's first round via four-game sweep.

    And they will be rewarded with a second-round foe—either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens—who's come off a grueling seven-game series against a bitter rival.

    But whether their run ends with a handshake line or a celebratory parade lap, it doesn't change the fact that reinforcing the blue line is a priority going forward.

    Winnipeg lost stalwarts Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers within months of a run to the Western Conference Final in 2019 and hasn't been able to replace their depth.

    The Jets aren't exactly flush with cap space, but they do have forward depth and might be able to create a deal that would give the Blue Jackets some much-needed punch while bringing in some back-end help.

    Considering they got together for a significant January deal that sent Patrik Laine south in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois, it's high time GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Kevin Cheveldayoff give each other a return call.