Pros and Cons (But Mostly Cons): What to Make of the Seth Jones Free Agency Report

By Sam Blazer on May 30, 2021 at 12:15 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) passes the puck as he falls to the ice against Detroit Red Wings center Luke Glendening (41) in the third period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

Everything is coming aces for the Columbus Blue Jackets, eh?

Per a report from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, defenseman Seth Jones is going to explore free agency and rebuff the Blue Jackets. 

It is a gut punch for a Blue Jacket club that is already chock full of decisions that need to be nailed this upcoming offseason. They now can add this to their to-do list and figure out what exactly should be done. It has been said by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen that it is a possibility that he enters into the 2021-2022 campaign with Jones in the fold.

There are multiple moving parts but there are some absolute definitives that the Blue Jackets for better or worse are going to need to deal with.

The perception

The worst part of this entire situation is another star player that wants to get out of Columbus. It is another in a long line of players that have said thanks but no thanks to the club.

This absolutely positively is a hit to the Blue Jackets from a perception perspective. They were ready to roll out the red carpet for him, potentially paying him the most in franchise history and also possibly handing him the captaincy. What more could a player want?

Anywhere else he goes in a flat cap world is not going to be able to pay him as much, give him as much term or offer the leadership role that the Blue Jackets are. Ouch. 

The Blue Jackets were going to more than likely be overpaying to keep a cornerstone player around. Depending on who you talk to, they will say that it is worth it to overpay to battle the perception that Columbus is not a place you want to play hockey in.

In reality, it may be more of a blessing in disguise.

The options

No matter how you slice it, the Blue Jackets cannot and should not hold onto Seth Jones longer than this summer. They need to get as much value as they can out of him before he decides to potentially skip town.

Any situation where they hold onto him into the 2021-2022 season is foolish. The issue becomes the potential return for him and that the leverage the Blue Jackets have when negotiating is minimal. The hope is that the outside perception is enough for someone to try and acquire him before he hits free agency.

So does this put them in a position to completely rebuild or readjust on the fly? The only top option for Columbus is going to be Zach Werenski. If they decide to trade Jones are they trying to trade from a position of strength or are they trying to get a center to bolster the team down the middle?

While the particulars of the trade are going to be behind the scenes and won't be known for a little bit, it is important to know that Jones may be more overrated than you realize.

The player

This is going to sound like sour grapes. I know it is. But Seth Jones the past couple of seasons has not been the number one defenseman that he has been touted.

He has some of the point production that you look for in the position, but it isn't elite. He is fine defensively but for the number of minutes he gets, he doesn't dominate. If you're going to be spending potentially more than 10 million dollars plus, wouldn't you want to have the best of the best?

Eye test-wise, you can completely get why he ends up in the top defenseman conversations. He is lengthy, he has a big shot and he can skate well. Investment-wise, it doesn't mean that he deserves it.

He just doesn't hold up to the analytics. This isn't a situation where the contract would look bad in a couple of years. It would look bad from the start. The combination of time on ice, impact, and everything else points to a player that may not stand the test of time.

Now mind you, this is all under John Tortorella. Would a new coach or a new situation get him back to a spot like he was in the 2018-19 season? It remains to be seen and clouds the situation even more.

No matter how it is sliced, this isn't a good look for the Blue Jackets. There is really no reason to harbor ill will toward Jones, this is his right to take a peek at free agency.

Similarly, the Blue Jackets don't have to dwell on this too long. If played right they can come out ahead. They can't cry over spilled milk, they need to proceed like Jones is any other player and extract value where they can. Until another move is made, it is all speculation. 

Fans can rest easy knowing that the sky isn't falling.

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