It has been reported the Columbus Blue Jackets will likely trade Seth Jones as the defenceman has told the club he won’t sign an extension this summer. President of hockey operations John Davidson has stated the organization will not take the same approach they did with Artemi Panarin, who signed with the New York Rangers in free agency in 2019 (from ‘Change of plans: Blue Jackets likely to trade Seth Jones without contract extension,’ The Athletic, May 30, 2021). With Panarin on the team, the Blue Jackets were a competitive group but now are looking to change things up.
Jones, the 2013 fourth overall pick, has emerged into a productive defenceman over the years. At 23 years old, he scored a career-high 16 goals and 57 points in 75 games, finishing fourth in Norris Trophy voting in the 2017-18 campaign. During his time with the Blue Jackets, he has had a Coris For % (CF%) above 50% every season besides 2020-21. Despite his CF% declining over the past three seasons, at 26 years old, he is a player the Vancouver Canucks should attempt to acquire.
Canucks Need a Player Like Jones
Jones is the perfect player for the Canucks to add this offseason. He is an elite right-handed defender who has averaged 24:47 minutes over the last six seasons with Columbus. Additionally, he could play alongside Quinn Hughes to create an elite top pairing.
The Canucks have an elite left-handed defenceman in Hughes but lack one on the right side. Tyler Myers plays the most minutes as a right-handed defenceman, but he is also on the wrong side of the 30. Adding Jones allows the Canucks to play Myers in a limited role, which could lead to the defenceman playing effective minutes.
Ninth Overall Pick
On Wednesday, the NHL held the 2021 Draft Lottery. For the fifth time in six years, the Canucks were a part of the Draft Lottery, but for the first time, the team didn’t drop a spot. In 2016, they fell from third to fifth, and in 2017, when they had the second-best odds in the Lottery, they fell to fifth once again. In 2018 and 2019, they dropped one spot, drafting at seventh and 10th, respectfully. Luckily for the Canucks, they stayed put at ninth overall in 2021. The club could use the pick in a potential trade for Jones. With the Blue Jackets looking to rebuild, the ninth overall pick would help speed up the process. They already have the fifth overall pick, so two picks in the top 10 of this year’s draft would be helpful.
General manager Jim Benning traded for Nate Schmidt in the 2020 offseason. Since the end of the season, there have been trade talks surrounding the defenceman (from ‘Canucks shopping list: That gaping hole on the blue-line,’ The Province, May 31, 2021). He is the perfect piece to add to this trade, as he has four years left at $5.95 million, which would offset Jones’ $5.4 million cap hit for next season.
Schmidt was brought in to play as a second-pairing defenceman, as well as his versatile since he could play on the left and the right side. He was brought in with hopes of bringing a two-way presence, which the Schmidt really didn’t deliver. He scored five goals and posted 15 points in 54 games this past season. If he is traded, the Canucks will likely look to bring back Alex Edler for another season to fill a spot on the left side of the team’s defence.
Jack Rathbone or Nils Hoglander
Although it would not be fun to see either Jack Rathbone or Nils Hoglander moved in a trade for Jones, they may be the pieces to get a deal done. Rathbone is a young puck-moving left defenceman who joined the Canucks late this season. He showed he has the potential to be a top-four defenceman and can pitch in offensively as he posted a goal and three assists in eight games.
Meanwhile, Hoglander started the season and emerged as a top-six forward. His hustle combined with his impressive skills have made a fan favourite in Vancouver, which led to him winning the Most Exciting Player (Pavel Bure Award) this season. As the youngest member on the team this year, the 20-year-old scored 13 goals and posted 27 points.
If the Canucks were to trade either of the two, Hoglander would be the one to go. With the team adding 2019 first-round pick Vasili Podkolzin into the top-six next season and Tanner Pearson staying for three more years, the young Swede is a better trade piece. Although the team needs a right-handed defenceman, their depth on defence isn’t as great as their options in their top-six. If they trade Schmidt, keeping Rathbone will be important, as he will be an important player for their second d-pairing moving forward. The Canucks’ willingness to move on from one of the two will make or break the deal.
Canucks Should Only Acquire Jones for the Long Term
Jones has one season left on his contract, and the Canucks have to make sure they get an extension worked out before making a trade for him. Losing all those pieces for a rental is not worth it, and the team is better off finding a right-handed defenceman in other ways. Additionally, Benning should attempt to negotiate the Blue Jackets into retaining some of Jones’ salary to allow himself some extra cap space heading into the offseason.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.