There is an interesting name floating around the Edmonton Oilers this week, and for an obvious reason. With a lot of potential change coming to the Oilers blue line, GM Ken Holland is going to need to figure out a solution when it’s possible he loses a few members of his top four and is potentially left with just Darnell Nurse.
As Mike Johnston of Sportsnet reports, “With Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie both set to hit the open market, the Oilers’ back end might require a great deal of work in the summer.” There’s some uncertainty around Oscar Klefbom and his health and if he can’t go, coupled with the potential exits of Larsson and/or Barrie, “Edmonton would feel the pressure to add a quality right-shot defender.”
Should Barrie and Larsson both leave, the Oilers have Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard. While both are budding young prospects, it’s a lot to ask that they carry the load for a team who is in “win now” mode starting this coming season.
What About Seth Jones?
One of the names that might be available is Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As Johnston points out, the Oilers don’t have extra picks to send to the Blue Jackets, so any deal could involve a potential stud young defenseman going the other way. That said, would GM Ken Holland still be willing to go that route to get a Norris-Trophy caliber defenseman (Jones) to go with another Norris-Trophy caliber defenseman (Nurse)?
It’s a risk to go that route and move a player like Evan Bouchard or Phillip Broberg, but players like Jones don’t become available every day, even if he is only locked in for one more season at $5.4 million.
Jones has one final year on his current deal and is a pending UFA at the end of the 2021-22 season. He’s informed the Blue Jackets that he doesn’t intend to sign an extension during the season and while the team is hoping he’ll change his mind, there’s a lot of talk that he’ll be moved. If the Oilers could, somehow, manage to work a trade with the Blue Jackets, it would give them Darnell Nurse as their top-pair left-shot defenseman with Jones as their top-pair right-shot defenseman. Ethan Bear would back up Jones on the right side, but leave the Oilers looking for a top-four on the left side.
It’s not clear if Seth Jones would consider the Oilers, but perhaps Edmonton isn’t on his 10-team no-trade list because his younger brother, Caleb Jones, is currently in the Oilers organization.
What If Jones Is Willing to Sign Long-Term?
Insiders seem to think that Seth Jones is interested in going to a hockey market. While that bodes well for the Oilers, speculation is that Seth would like that to be a U.S.-based market. But, what if Jones was open to an extension? It’s not totally clear if his unwillingness to sign this coming season is because his option is the Blue Jackets or if he wants to test free agency, but it can’t hurt the Oilers to ask.
As Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now points out, if Edmonton can manage to retain Jones for $8 x 5 years, and then sign Nurse to a similar extension in the eight-year range, the Oilers will have $16 million invested in their top-two blue-liners and huge minute munchers. Stauffer joked, ‘Edmonton would never need to play anyone else’. Add to that the investment of $21 million in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’s a lot ($37 million), but it’s much more well balanced than say a team that has nearly $41 million invested in four forwards.
Of course, this next season, the cap hit for Edmonton wouldn’t be that high because Nurse ($5.6 million) and Jones ($5.4 million) would be bargains and allow the Oilers to load up with additional players to compete.
Seth Jones is a Long Shot
While both talked about it at great length, neither Mark Spector, nor Bob Stauffer saw this as the way this offseason would likely play out. First, it’s because the Oilers would be hesitant to move a player like Bouchard (and Columbus would certainly ask). Second, these types of huge trades and franchise-altering moves don’t happen all that often.
A lot of pieces need to fall into place for a Seth Jones trade to Edmonton to work out. It doesn’t mean the Oilers shouldn’t inquire, it just means they shouldn’t put all their eggs in the Seth Jones basket.