The NHL offseason doesn’t usually pick up until after the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but rumors may start swirling earlier this year. That could be a good thing for Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Fletcher has his work cut out for him this offseason after failing to address any issues last year. He helped the Flyers take the next step two offseasons ago, so he’s 1 for 2 thus far. His third offseason at the helm of the Flyers is a big one.
The top offseason priority should be to improve the defense. Trades for Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun two years ago bolstered the Flyers’ blue line, but he failed to replace Niskanen last year. Erik Gustafsson was not a viable candidate to do that –– and it showed –– and the internal options didn’t step up to fill the gap. It was a defensive disaster that was only made worse by goaltending gaffes.
There aren’t a ton of top-tier defensemen openly available this offseason, however. Dougie Hamilton is the biggest name, but he may want to stay with the Carolina Hurricanes. David Savard is another option, albeit a lesser one. The free-agent market for defensemen is rather thin. Fletcher may have to pull off another trade for a defenseman.
Seth Jones wants out of Columbus
Over the weekend, Elliotte Friedman reported that Seth Jones has informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he won’t be re-signing after next season. Jones has one year left on his contract at a $5.4 million cap hit.
“We can tell you that sometime in the last week or so, Seth Jones informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he will not be re-signing,” said Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “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.”
“I can tell you that discussions are ongoing,” Davidson said Sunday. “Seth’s been very open with [general manager Jarmo Kekalainen]. They’ve had great discussions and they’re going to continue having discussions and they’re going to be in-house. It’s professional. That’s the way we want to do our business.”
It sounded like the Blue Jackets may be looking for a rebuild and could use Jones as a trade chip to get a few pieces for that.
“We’re in a bit of a different position right now, where we’re reloading again, so we’ll do what’s right — with Seth, for Seth and for us,” Davidson said. “Everything will be on top of the table. Anything can happen, one way or the other, depending on what Seth’s decision is. That’s just being forthright. You’ve got to weigh every option possible to do what’s right for your club.”
It sure sounds like the ball is in Jones’ court, and he may want to take the ball and go play in another city –– perhaps in the city where his dad, Popeye Jones, is an assistant coach of the NBA team? That’s right, Jones already has a connection to the city of Philadelphia via his father, who is an assistant coach for the Sixers.
But that’s getting a head of ourselves a bit. There is a big if surrounding Jones’ possible offseason desires, especially since he has a modified no-movement clause.
Is Seth Jones a top-tier defenseman?
Seth Jones was regarded as one of the best young defensemen in the league just a few years ago. At 23 years old, Jones put up 57 points (16 goals, 41 assists) in 78 games while averaging 24:36 of ice time per night in the 2017-18 season. That placed him fourth in Norris Trophy voting, behind only Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, and P.K. Subban. The sky seemed like the limit for Jones.
However, Jones hasn’t had a season like that since. He’s still eaten big minutes for the Blue Jackets in all situations but dropped to ninth in Norris voting for the 2018-19 season and 14th last year. This season was arguably the worst of his career, finishing with just 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 56 games.
There have been a wide array of opinions on Jones since the news dropped Saturday night. Some people have said that he’s still one of the best defensemen in the league and the Flyers should do everything they can to get him. Others are at the opposite end of the spectrum due to Jones’ underlying numbers and think that trading for him wouldn’t be a good move.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. JFresh broke down Jones’ play in a great article last year that is well worth the read.
In my eyes, Jones is still a good top-four defenseman with the potential to prove he’s a top-pair guy. It also helps that he’s right-handed.
Should the Flyers target Seth Jones?
A top-four right defenseman appears to be available in the trade market. The Flyers’ biggest need is a top-four right defenseman. They have to trade for him, right?
Well, it’s complicated.
You have to think that the Flyers will look into the situation in Columbus. Chuck Fletcher would be remiss if he didn’t do his due diligence on Jones and what Columbus is thinking.
If the Blue Jackets are backed into a corner with Jones, perhaps Fletcher could get him for cheap. However, right-handed defensemen –– especially ones with Jones’ potential and skillset –– are hard to find. The position scarcity could drive up the price for an up-and-down defenseman.
The Flyers already have a few young defensemen of their own that they need to bounce back.
Ivan Provorov is in a bit of a similar position to Jones in that he had a great year a few seasons ago but struggled this past season. No one knows if Provorov or Jones can truly anchor a top pair. Would they work together? Maybe. Maybe not.
Provorov, Sanheim, and Myers are three defensemen that the Flyers don’t know exactly what to expect from them. Jones could be in the same boat after a down season.
If Fletcher can swing a good deal for Jones, go get him. If it’s going to cost more than something like Travis Konecny, Philippe Myers, and a first-round pick –– as Bill Meltzer suggested on Sunday ––, I would stay away.
Nolan Patrick could be an interesting name. He reportedly could ask for a fresh start this summer and the Blue Jackets may want a young player with potential like him.
The Flyers need a top-four defenseman (or two). Jones is an option, but he’d be below Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm on my list. Depending on his price, I may even put David Savard above him. Jones is undeniably better than Savard, but Savard is a free agent and Jones may cost a few young pieces –– and then a contract extension on top of it.
Seth Jones may be a name to watch this summer as Chuck Fletcher looks to improve the Flyers defense.