Pittsburgh Penguins Should Overpay for Seth Jones

The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to make a few small changes to the roster this offseason, however, one big name that has become available is Columbus Blue Jackets star defenseman Seth Jones. While acquiring Jones seems like a pipe dream, the Penguins have some trade assets that could potentially entice Blue Jackets management to at least stay on the phone. If the Blue Jackets are interested, the Penguins should be overpaying to land Jones as soon as possible.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was quick to report last week that Jones has notified the Blue Jackets that he will test the free agency market after next season and does not have any interest in signing a contract extension with Columbus at this time. The timing of the news was a bit of a shock and some teams likely picked up the phone soon after to get a pulse on the ballpark of the asking price. Perhaps Penguins general manager Ron Hextall was one of the many who checked in.

Penguins Have Enough Depth to Afford Jones

The Penguins have John Marino, a young right-handed defenseman signed long-term, who would provide the Blue Jackets with a solid option for their top-four. It will be no easy task to replace Jones and David Savard, who was traded at the deadline to Tampa Bay. Marino is slated to make $4.4 million for the next six seasons after former general manager Jim Rutherford rewarded him for a fine rookie season. At this point, it’s still rather early to know if Hextall and Brian Burke love Marino’s game, and I’m certainly curious to know if they think Marino can take over the No. 1 spot on the right side of the top pair when Kris Letang eventually departs. Jones, on the other hand, can be that No. 1 guy.

Even with no-trade protection with his list of 10 teams, the Penguins likely make the cut of approval. Jones would be a perfect candidate to be a leader of the next wave of talent in Pittsburgh and certainly fits the mold of the type of player Hextall and Burke love on their team. He’s 6’4, a smooth skater, physical, blocks shots and plays a ton of big-time minutes. What’s not to love?

Seth Jones
Seth Jones would be the perfect replacement for Kris Letang (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Any trade for Jones will take more than just Marino, of course, and 26-year-old Jake Guentzel would, in this case, find himself as the Blue Jackets’ top target. The young sniper would provide Columbus with a much-needed threat for the left-side of their top-six and an offer of Marino and Guentzel would likely match up against other teams around the league. It’s a steep price but worth it if I’m the Penguins. Jones is set to make $5.4 million next season and then can become an unrestricted free agent. With the long-term deals of Marino and Guentzel both off the books, the Penguins only make this deal if they sign Jones to an extension. After it’s all said and done, it’s likely the Pens would save roughly $2 million per season with this trade and Jones’ extension.

A right-side of Jones, Letang, and Cody Ceci stacks up around the league. The right-handed defenseman is still a premium position in the NHL and this would certainly be a position of strength for the hockey club. There’s a lack of elite talent who play the position and the Penguins would have two of them. While the young Marino is still developing and has a huge ceiling, Jones is more physical and has a workhorse mentality that sets him apart. If you look at the Penguins next season and having Crosby, Malkin and Carter down the middle and with a talented d-core, the team can once again set themselves up to make some noise. Penguins fans are hoping it’s not just in the regular season this time around.

Defensemen This Talented Don’t Become Available Very Often

Having a chance to add a talent like Jones is rare, and if the Blue Jackets indeed make it known he’s gone, any team in the Eastern Conference will have to overpay. If the Penguins are presented a chance, too, they should be going for it. There are a couple of reasons and the first one has to do with captain Sidney Crosby. He has the uncanny ability to play with absolutely anybody on his wings and make them more effective. It’s the “Crosby Bump” and we’ve seen it for years. That’s what makes Sid…Sid.

By making this trade, the Penguins would need to replace the first-line minutes on the left wing and the Penguins have Jared McCann, who is a great candidate for the job. He’s a year younger than Guentzel, has shown the potential to light the lamp consistently and is blossoming into a solid two-way player. Mix in knowing a “Crosby Bump” is coming next season and 14 goals could easily become 25 in a heartbeat.

Jared McCann Pittsburgh Penguins
Jared McCann could develop a tremendous amount playing alongside Sidney Crosby next season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Penguins core gets mentioned, it always seems to stop at the Big 3, and rightfully so, they deserve the attention and the accolades. Crosby, Letang and Evgeni Malkin want to finish their careers together and from all accounts, it sounds like management is on board. Showing a willingness to add Carter, and we all saw how well that worked out, should also be adding a touch of enticement to making another big trade. With Carter, it was the size, character, finishing ability that was appealing for Burke and Hextall to make the deal and the fact he’s won multiple Stanley Cups. Jones hasn’t won a Cup, but he’s performed well when it’s mattered most, scoring 24 points in 37 playoff games.

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The Blue Jackets have a big decision to make that’s going to affect their franchise for years. Interest will be off the charts, and Columbus will have a wide range of trade offers to consider. Some will include top prospects and draft picks, while some teams will be offering solely a hockey deal. The Penguins can offer a hockey deal and one that gives the Blue Jackets two players who can become core pieces for the franchise.

There’s a slew of different reasons you could present when discussing this trade. Something to consider for Columbus would be that both Guentzel and Marino are signed long-term, which gives John Davidson some stability to begin his second tenure. Meanwhile, for Hextall and Burke, they make another big trade, add Jones, and become more flexible financially. I hear a win-win if you ask me.

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