Late last night, it was reported that Columbus Blue Jackets star defenseman Seth Jones will not sign an extension with Columbus and plans to test the 2022 free-agent market. That’s a huge blow to a team that has lost a large chunk of their core players in the last few years. While general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has said in the past that the team intends to go into the season with Jones whether or not he signs a contract extension, that looks to have already changed.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required) writes that much has changed around the philosophy now that John Davidson has rejoined the organization as President of Hockey Operations. In fact, while Davidson did not confirm the rumors that Elliotte Friedman passed along Saturday Night on Hockey Night in Canada, he made it clear that if Jones does not sign an extension, they will not hold onto the blueliner like the team did when they held onto Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky when both indicated they intended to test free agency at the end of the year in 2019. Both players instead opted to leave the team at the end of the season.
“The No. 1 thing we’d like to do is keep Seth,” Davidson told The Athletic on Sunday. “He has every right in the world to leave if he wants to not extend the contract, but we’ll do what’s best for our team. We just want players who want to be here. This is a different scenario (than in 2019). We were in a position (then) where we thought we had a chance to make a pretty good run at (the Stanley Cup). Beating Tampa Bay (in the first round) was great. Losing to Boston in six … it was a good series, and they lost in seven in the Final.”
With Columbus in a much different position than when they were a solid playoff contender, the team likely has no choice but to consider getting as much as they can for Jones. Portzline said that sources have told him that the team will likely begin shopping the defenseman immediately with the hope of trading him before the draft this summer.
“Whatever happens is going to be what’s the absolute best for the Blue Jackets franchise, period,” Davidson said. “That’s just how it works. Doesn’t matter if it’s Seth Jones or Joe Smith, the player has the right through the (collective bargaining agreement) to do what they feel is necessary for them and their careers. We want players who want to be in Columbus, who want to be Blue Jackets, and we’re going to continue to create that culture.”