Seth Jones and the Columbus Blue Jackets could part ways this summer.
Jones has a year left on his contract worth $5.4 million. On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the 26-year-defenseman intends to test next summer’s free-agent market.
According to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen indicated in early May his intention to keep Jones into 2021-22 even if he didn’t sign an extension. The hope was the blueliner might change his mind before next summer.
Jones’ decision, however, has changed that plan. Portzline cited sources saying the Jackets are likely to trade the blueliner this summer, perhaps by the NHL Draft weekend on July 23-24.
The Jackets could go into next season with Jones in the lineup and attempt to move him at the trade deadline. However, his presence would become an unnecessary distraction for the player and the team.
A skillful, big-minute rearguard, Jones should draw considerable interest in this summer’s trade market from teams in need of a No. 1 defenseman. The Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets could come calling.
Portzline expects the Jackets could seek a return “loaded with future commodities” such as draft picks and prospects. Interested clubs could seek assurances he’ll sign a contract extension with them.
Jones’ departure could also raise questions about defense partner Zach Werenski’s long-term future in Columbus.
A restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights, the 24-year-old Werenski will also be a year away from UFA eligibility. If he doesn’t agree to a long-term extension, the Jackets could be shopping another top-pairing defenseman.