As the Chicago Blackhawks will continue to build their defensive core this summer, an opportunity has presented itself. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported last week that Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones informed the club that he will not be re-signing and will test free agency next offseason. The 26-year-old right-shot D-man will be one of the most talked-about players in the coming weeks and months as teams will inquire the Blue Jackets on what it will take to acquire him. It would be in the Blue Jackets’ best interest to acquire pieces and jumpstart their rebuild.
The Blackhawks, who are in the midst of their own rebuild, have an opportunity to advance their timeline by a few years by acquiring one of the top young blue-line players in the NHL. It may take a good amount of equity, but it is a move that general manager Stan Bowman needs to consider.
Blackhawks Expected to Be in the Mix for Jones
Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets writer for The Athletic, wrote on Monday that clubs are expected to reach out to Columbus on Jones. “A flood of calls is expected Monday or Tuesday after the holiday weekend. The early favorite appears to be the Los Angles Kings, given their stable of prospects and pile of draft picks. Chicago and Montreal are expected to be major players, too” (from ‘Blue Jackets Monday Gathering: Brad Larsen getting long look, Jackets are overdue in the lottery, and growing interest in Seth Jones,’ The Athletic, May 31, 2021).
The Blackhawks have yet to find their No. 1 defenseman of the future. Of their recent draft picks at the position, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, and Ian Mitchell, none have shown quite enough to prove they can be the leader of the defensive group. While each player has had their bright spots, struggles have followed. And not to beat down on them too much – playing defense in the NHL is a tall order – the super-skilled figure it out quickly, while it may take others some time to get a feel for the position at the professional level. However, I do not think the Blackhawks’ future on the blue line is Duncan Keith.
Jones, 26, has established himself in the NHL as a player who can play the big minutes and be a playmaker on the ice. At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, he would become one of the biggest defensemen on the team, something we know the Blackhawks desperately need. Jones not only would make the Blackhawks D-core automatically better, but he’d accelerate the rebuilding of their defensive corps. He’s a two-way defenseman with top-notch offensive skills, including a pretty good shot.
This season in Columbus was an ugly one. Even after trading for Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets sank in the standings, leading to the departure of head coach John Tortorella. And now the Jones news could lead to a full rebuild for the Blue Jackets and a new coach at the helm. And they are going to want a haul of prospects and picks for Jones, as they should. He’s an elite puck mover with high-end offensive skills. The big question is, do the Blackhawks have the pieces to entice the Blue Jackets to send Jones to Chicago?
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The Blackhawks should make every young player available besides Kirby Dach and probably Lukas Reichel. It is not every day a top defenseman becomes available. You are going to give up quite a bit, but you know you are getting back a foundational player for years to come.
The last playoff series win in Chicago came when they clinched the Stanley Cup in 2015. It feels a lot longer than six years ago. Acquiring Jones would give their defensive core a lift. Connor Murphy has turned into a very nice player for the Blackhawks, and I have liked the addition of Riley Stillman. Keith may be on his last legs, but he can still be a serviceable player. The rest of the group is still in question, with or without Jones. Boqvist has failed to stay healthy but when he is, he can be an elite player in the offensive zone. Mitchell and Beaudin had some good stretches but spent some time as healthy scratches too. I think Kalynuk can have a spot on this team going forward. For other veterans like Calvin de Haan and Nikita Zadorov, their future with the team remains in question.
Jones is going to have the phones ringing off the hook in Columbus in the coming weeks. It would be in their best interest to trade him for something and the Blackhawks should be right in the thick of discussions knowing how big of a transaction this would be for the rebuild.