The talented young defenseman has been great for a bad Blue Jackets squad since getting swapped for Ryan Johansen and with his second NHL contract up for negotiation, Jones finds himself in an excellent bargaining position.
Seth Jones’ chances of playing in the post-season this year decreased dramatically when he was swapped from Nashville to Columbus for Ryan Johansen, but if there’s an upside to the deal, it’s that Jones probably added millions on to his next contract in the process.
Jones is a restricted free agent this summer and though his agents have not spoken to the Blue Jackets yet, you can be sure the talks will begin in the not-too-distant future. As a big, mobile and intelligent right-shooting defenseman, Jones has pretty much everything you want in a blueliner. With Nashville, he was still the third-best player in the corps because the Preds have two of the best in the NHL right now in Shea Weber and Roman Josi.
But in Columbus? Jones is head and shoulders above everyone else. He’s already duelling Jack Johnson for top minutes on the team, but getting much better results than the veteran. He plays in all situations and with six points through 11 games, he is easily the highest-scoring defenseman on the team in terms of points per game.
And, of course, there’s the fact that Jones is only 21 – so he’s most likely going to be even better in the coming years. Keep in mind: Jones was not put on the market by Nashville – the Preds really needed Johansen and Jones was the steep price, so it’s not like they were getting rid of a problem.
So how do you price him now? If Jones was still in Nashville, GM David Poile easily could have made the argument that Josi only makes $4 million a year, so Jones shouldn’t make much more than that. But in Columbus? The sky’s the limit. Johnson and Fedor Tyutin are the highest-paid blueliners on the team, with Tyutin’s cap hit the high-water mark at $4.5 million. Jones is way more valuable than either already.
Once Jones’ team at CAA Hockey begins negotiations, comparisons will be tossed around and the most obvious one is Dougie Hamilton in Calgary. Hamilton got six years with an average annual value of $5.7 million and that’s a pretty good benchmark for Jones. There will be some wiggle room in terms of years (Columbus could go as high as eight seasons, but you start getting into potential unrestricted free agency years in the later years), but would it shock anyone to see Jones get $6 million per? Calgary at least had Mark Giordano ahead of Hamilton on the depth chart and ‘Gio’ signed an extension with the Flames two months after the Hamilton contract, pushing the veteran’s salary over the new kid’s stipend.
Jones’ only competition for top-dog status are fellow youngsters with less of a track record: Ryan Murray and Zack Werenski, the latter of whom is still at the University of Michigan.
And don’t think of this as a bad thing for Columbus. Locking up Jones long-term would be fantastic for a team that should build its defense around the three aforementioned youngsters and David Savard, who is currently injured. If goalie Sergei Bobrovsky can get his health back in order, the Blue Jackets won’t find themselves at the bottom of the league in goals-against next season, as they are now.