While it isn’t truly the offseason just yet, the rumor mill is in full-swing. Not even rumors, but statements from players are circulating and giving fans visions of grandeur. The latest comments to surface are from Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones. Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night that Seth Jones will look to test the free agent market when his current contract expires. Jones is due $5.4 million for the upcoming season.
With the Flyers in the market for a top-pairing defenseman opposite Ivan Provorov, Seth Jones is an intriguing name. His apparent availability paired with his right-handed shot is incredibly intriguing from an organizational fit standpoint. Other factors play a role in why Chuck Fletcher should be on the horn with Jarmo Kekalainen about the 26 year-old defenseman.
Chuck’s Track Record
Say what you will about his lack of moves this past season, but Fletcher’s track record with underperforming defenseman the year prior is pretty solid. Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun had down-years prior to being traded to the Flyers. Their first season in Philadelphia was a successful one in terms of on-ice production and team success.
To an extent, you can throw Ivan Provorov into that group as well. The 2018/19 season wasn’t his greatest, but last year was arguably his best as a Flyer. Sure, he wasn’t traded to the Flyers like Braun and Niskanen, but he did experience a resurgence of sorts due to a move Chuck Fletcher made.
While he has his flaws, Chuck Fletcher has had some success in dealing with blueliners coming to Philadelphia. Could he cast the same type of magic with Seth Jones? Jones is coming off a so-so year with Columbus, posting five goals and 23 assists in 56 games. He’s shown a steady decline in stats over the past two to three years, but could see a bump due to this coming season being a contract year.
Would Seth Jones be the perfect partner for Ivan Provorov?
This past season wasn’t pretty when it comes to the Flyers back-end. Nearly every Flyers defenseman took a step back when it comes to production. Too much trust was put into banking on players like Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Philippe Myers taking that proverbial “next step” and blossoming into what many believe to be a stable blue line. Provorov ended up being paired with just about every defenseman at some point on the top pair. The Sanheim/Myers pairing that we saw last season wasn’t anything like what we experienced this season.
Enter Seth Jones.
Jones averaged just over 25 minutes per night this past season. He logged plenty of time on special teams as well. Pair that with his right handedness, and you could potentially have your top-pair that was envisioned at the beginning of the season with Phil Myers, but better. Often tabbed as an “elite” defenseman, Jones could be the partner that Provorov needs to find his groove again. He logs big minutes, plays special teams, and comes at even less of a cap hit, for now, than Provorov.
Jones’ style of play could be just what the Flyers need to fix their problems on the blueline and in net. With Carter Hart’s struggles this past season being well documented, Jones coming in could help lessen the load on the young netminder. Jones blocked 101 shots last season, averaging almost two per game. For a team that allowed the most goals in the league on the 20th most shots allowed per game, subsequently allowing the most goals per game, this would be a welcome addition.
Jones’ 102 hits would have ranked third on the Flyers this past season. Considering the fact that it would have led all Flyers defenseman, Jones’ presence on the Flyers blueline would be a welcome one. Hits aren’t everything when it comes to defensemen, but it could help the Flyers establish an identity which they lacked this past season.
Seth Jones has family ties
Every athlete knows that playing in front of family has its benefits. Seth Jones’ dad just happens to be Ronald “Popeye” Jones, assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. If Fletcher wanted to lure Seth Jones away from Columbus, recruiting his dad to help pitch the idea could definitely help.
Jones has a modified no-trade clause in his current deal. If Jones were to be traded, he would have to submit a list of ten teams he would approve a trade to. A talk with his Father could easily land Philadelphia on that list he would submit to the Blue Jackets front office.
Adding it all up
Trading for Seth Jones is a risky move. He’s experienced a dip in production over the past two to three seasons. While difficult to pinpoint the reason, it could be due to the turnover in Columbus. A lot of players have come and gone for the Blue Jackets in recent memory. Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Pierre-Luc Dubios, and Sergei Bobrovsky have all left town recently just to name a few. David Savard was traded at the deadline this past season along with captain Nick Foligno. Seeing all that happen could be one of, if not the reason why Jones’ production has fallen off a bit.
While not a reclamation project by any means, there’s absolutely some risk involved. Jones is 26 years old and about to enter the last year of his deal. He will ultimately command more than his current $5.4 million cap hit in free agency. Having said he wants to test free agency, this could be only a one-year rental for the Flyers. Could it be worth giving up what the Flyers would to try and make him happy enough to sign a long-term deal before testing the waters as a free agent?
If the Flyers are dead-set on trying to compete this season, Seth Jones would be a solid piece to try and do so. It all depends on the cost, but it could absolutely be worth the risk involved.
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