When we first heard about the MCL sprain suffered by Seth Jones, the expectation was that the Norris-caliber defenseman would be back in November at some point. Today, the Columbus Blue Jackets officially removed Jones from injured reserve and will insert him into the lineup tomorrow, exactly four weeks from the time of the injury.
Getting Jones back into the lineup is a huge boost for a Blue Jackets team that is off to a uninspiring start. With a 4-3 record they’re currently just a single point behind the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, but there hasn’t been a ton of positives for the team through the early going. Jones returning to the ice is certainly one, especially after missing just seven games. He’ll immediately make their defense corps, which was already strong, one of the best in the league once again and should help them get back on track as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Not only is that important for their current season, but Columbus fans know all too well the dark shadow that is hanging over the team right now with the pending free agency of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. If this is the last season both players will suit up for the Blue Jackets, the team will want to make it count in the regular season and playoffs. Jones is the key to the whole group, as he adds elite level defending with incredible puck movement and offensive creativity. Usually paired with Zach Werenski, the two make one of the most inexpensive top pairings in the league as Jones is still earning an average of just $5.4MM. That six-year contract, signed just a few months after he was acquired from the Nashville Predators, is an absolute bargain for the Blue Jackets and a big reason why they could even consider re-signing Panarin and Bobrovsky if the two were interested in staying.