Seth Jones’ decision to test next summer’s free-agent market stoked speculation over potential trade destinations for the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman. While the rumor mill focuses on teams seeking a top-pairing, right-side blueliner, the opportunity to fill a leadership role could also be a factor.
Jones was a co-captain during his tenure with USA Hockey National Team Development Program. On May 30, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reported the Jackets likely would’ve named him their captain if he agreed to a long-term contract extension. Maybe he’ll want a similar opportunity with his next club.
Matt Larkin’s recent list of destinations for Jones could provide some clues. He included the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets as the best hockey fits.
There’s no immediate leadership role in Winnipeg with Jets captain Blake Wheeler carrying two more seasons on his contract. The Flyers could let Claude Giroux depart next summer via free agency but 2020 Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier is his logical heir.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has one season remaining on his contract. However, his health is a concern after missing this season with a mysterious illness. While he’s expected to return to the Blackhawks next season, they could seek future captain material if they make a pitch for Jones.
The Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings also appeared on Larkin’s list. All but the Avalanche have captains under long-term contracts. If Gabriel Landeskog leaves the Avs this summer as a free agent, Nathan MacKinnon becomes the obvious replacement.
Perhaps the Seattle Kraken could be a fit for Jones. He would know that region well, having played for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in 2012-13.