Just over an hour before the Buffalo Sabres were on the clock, Stan Bowman made quite the splash. The Chicago Blackhawks had acquired 26-year-old defenceman Seth Jones and a 2022 6th round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets. In exchange, the Blackhawks gave up young blueliner Adam Boqvist, the 12th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, a 2022 first-round pick. Soon after the trade was announced, general manager Stan Bowman wasted no time and extended Jone’s contract. Starting the 2022-23 season, Jones will be making an average of $9.5 million a season until the 2029-30 season. While some fans of the Blackhawks are outraged at the move, others welcome the new face with excitement and optimism. Today let’s break down the Seth Jones trade.
Looking at the Trade for Seth Jones
After Chicago traded long-time Blackhawk Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers, the team needed a true top-pairing defenseman. Not to discredit Connor Murphy, but he still hasn’t quite proved to be a consistent top pairing guy in Chicago. Acquiring Seth Jones was a no-brainer in this situation. Stan Bowman had been showing heavy interest in the defenceman since the start of the offseason, with trade rumours around Chicago and Jones heating up all summer long.
With the trade for Seth Jones, Chicago gets an immediate fill to the gap left by Keith’s departure. Not only that, but Jones adds a much-needed consistent offensive presence to the Hawks blue line. Going the other way for Chicago, was a high first-round pick in a historically weird draft. Losing such potential during a rebuilding process could come back to hurt them.
Similarly, the team sent their 2022 first-round pick to Columbus as well. Next year’s draft is all sorts of deep and talented. Losing out on another first-round pick that, arguably, is going to be better than anyone the team could have drafted this year might come back and haunt them down the line.
For Columbus, the team sheds around $4.5 million in cap space for next season by trading away the last year of Jones contract. They also drafted at the 12th spot in the first round, drafting centre Cole Sillinger. Sillinger was ranked 15 by Ben Kerr, who touted his scoring ability and his strong offensive game. Also acquiring Chicago’s 2022 first-rounder, and a second-round pick in this year’s draft added more draft capital for Columbus’ to use to their advantage as they continue to retool their roster.
Most notably for the Blue Jackets, however, is young blueliner Adam Boqvist. Boqvist, at times, was one of Chicago’s flashiest young pieces and best skaters on the ice. Adding a young, fast, and impressionable piece to the blue line is a nice addition for a team that now has Jake Bean to move around on the defensive side as well. Boqvist will be a nice replacement for Jones in the top four and bring a nice offensive game to the Columbus defence that Jones surely had in his time there.
How Will This Look in the Future?
The Blackhawks seemed to finally rid themselves of any cap issues they may have had in the post-coup era. Trading for Seth Jones and signing him to a hefty extension, however, may spell similar cap problems in the future for Chicago. There are not many players under contract for Chicago to start the 2022-23 season. However, in a year’s time, the team might be in a different place developmentally than they are now. Having just over $30 million in cap locked up between three players, Jones, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, in a summer where their most important restricted free agents need re-signing isn’t the best outcome. Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, and all three of their goalies will need contracts that same summer. It’s possible to make the cap fit, but it certainly won’t be the easiest task.
For Bowman and the Blackhawks, this contract is paying Jones for what he has done in the past. He has proven to be a top-pairing player capable of 25-plus minutes of ice time a night. In three years if Jones isn’t scoring at a Norris calibre pace, covering defensive gaps in his game like a Norris calibre player, and being a net-positive for Chicago then it will be the worst contract in the NHL. That might be extreme, but entrusting $9.5 million in a player that has holes in his defensive game is an extreme move for a rebuilding team.
Boqvist is a young defenceman with plenty to learn. He certainly didn’t find the most success in Jeremy Colliton‘s system in Chicago, so the change of scenery might do him good. If Boqvist continues to develop his game along the path he’s on, it’ll mean great things for Columbus. With that being said, the past two seasons have made it look like he’s missing his developmental marks. For an eight overall pick in the 2018 draft, his play has been pretty average. A young defenceman takes a much longer path to their prime than a forward does, of course.
However, if year three for Boqvist proves similar in production and defensive efficiency as his first two years, trading away Jones for Boqvist could be another in a long line of questionable moves for Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. The first-round pick in 2022 will be crucial to this trade’s success for Jarmo and the front office. If they are able to land a top-end talent, which they likely will, it’ll instantly make up for any gaps that Boqvist might present in Columbus.
The Start of a New Era in Chicago
The Seth Jones trade along with Duncan Keith being traded out of Chicago marked the beginning and the end of an era for the Blackhawks defence. Since 2005 Keith had been a mainstay on Chicago’s top pair. He helped them win three Stanley Cups and helped kept their cup window open longer than anyone expected it to. Without Keith, Chicago’s best defensive years might not have happened when they did. Bringing in Jones to fill that role will prove to be a huge challenge for the young defender. Besides living up to Keith’s namesake, Jones will have the task of performing at a level that proves he’s worth $9.5 million and anchor a young, inexperienced group of defensemen into the postseason for Chicago. How he’ll achieve this remains to be seen. With a mix of talented defencemen to mentor and a lot to prove, Jones’ legacy in Chicago starts now.
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