After weeks of theorizing his fate, Seth Jones finally came forward and made a statement that he has no intention on re-signing in Columbus when his contract expires at the end of next season. Now the clock starts ticking and the Blue Jackets will more than likely start fielding offers for his services as soon as possible. It’s a perfect scenario for the Philadelphia Flyers to swoop in and secure themselves a new toy to reinforce their disappointing defensive core. Now the question becomes what will a trade look like?
We actually theorized a trade for Jones in passing last week when predicting the 2021-22 lineup. The deal was Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers for Jones. Now, this proposal was highly dependent on the organization securing Dougie Hamilton via free agency as well. If Hamilton doesn’t hit the open market, there’s a pretty shallow pool of options, thus no reason to give up both Myers and Sanheim for one player.
Though there’s a good chance one of those two are going back the other way. Travis Sanheim is probably the better of the two, but he’s due a contract this offseason, so unless a sign-and-trade happens on the Flyers’ side, the Blue Jackets may not want to give up one contract issue for potentially another. Myers may not have had the best season in 2021, but he still has plenty of potential to his name and a cost certainty, as he’s signed for two more seasons at $2.55 million, that goes a long way in the current flat cap era the NHL finds itself in.
The rest of the trade seems to be a bit up in the air and dependent on the direction Columbus takes this summer. Does Patrik Laine re-sign? Do the Blue Jackets try to move forward with a shallow roster? Do they take a year or two back and do some rebuilding on the fly? Columbus has taken quite a few hits over the last few seasons. They lost Artemi Panarin, who was in a very similar situation to Seth Jones, and Sergei Bobrovsky in 2019, both for nothing. Now on the cusp of losing Jones as well, Jarmo Kekalainen will undoubtedly look to cash out and get everything he can in return for the soon-to-be-27-year-old.
So what does that mean for the Flyers? Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny would be their likely starting point. That is a fair and perfectly attainable ask on the part of the Blue Jackets, and one the Flyers should have no problem reaching. Jones is a massive improvement over Sanheim meaning Travis Konecny would be the piece of interest for the Blue Jackets. Even after a down year where he only scored 11 goals in 50 games, Konecny is still regarded as a consistent goal scorer, as he has three consecutive 24-goal seasons under his belt. The Flyers losing him may hurt, but with the emergence of Joel Farabee and the potential of Wade Allison, there’s no reason to think the Flyers couldn’t fill his void internally. Adding in a draft pick is customary for big trades, and the Flyers shouldn’t hold any attachment to theirs anymore. The draft lottery is June 2, but right now the Flyers are set to select 14th overall. Due to the uncertainty of the draft, the Flyers may try and keep this year’s pick and instead look to deal next year’s first rounder, a move they should have no problem doing.
Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim and a first round pick is a fair and manageable trade for the Flyers. With the trade stipulations met, what comes next?
If the Flyers find a way to acquire Seth Jones, the next hurdle will be re-signing him. There’s no way they waste the assets to acquire a top defenseman without the security of knowing he’ll be in Philly for years to come. It’s possible part of the trade itself will include an extension. So what will he look for? Chances are Jones will wait to observe the fate of Dougie Hamilton and the massive deal he’ll surely get this summer before making a decision of his own. At the end of the day, he is going to get paid one way or another, but just how pricey is still to be determined.
Chances are, the Flyers may be able to secure Jones for slightly less money than Hamilton will get, who Dougie himself will look to Alex Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year, $61.6 million ($8.8 aav) last offseason as a jumping off point in his own negotiations. Jones is making $5.4 million per season on his current deal, so he’ll be in the market for a nice little raise.
Jones finding himself with a long-term deal ranging in the $7.5-8 million range is a fair starting point. 15 of the top defenseman in the league are making $7.5 or more per season, and 10 are making $8 million or more. Aaron Ekblad, Jacob Trouba and Jared Spurgeon are similar names in the $7.5+ million club.
For arguement’s sake, let’s say Jones settles at six years, $48 million dollars ($8 aav). He becomes the third most expensive player on the team behind Giroux and Voracek and the player under contract the longest until 2027. Four of those six years will run concurrent with Ivan Provorov’s current deal, finally finding him a top of the line long-term partner. It’s an expensive deal, but one that could look great if the chemistry between the two works out.
Jones has drawn a split reaction from the Flyers’ faithful since the rumors of his fate started. Some point to analytics as a reason to stay away, others realize the Flyers need help and Seth Jones isn’t the kind of guy you pass up on. If you plop Jones on the roster as currently constructed, he immediately becomes the number two guy and it’s not particularly close. He typically plays on the right side, meaning he can comfortably ride shotgun with Ivan Provorov which, at the end of the day, finding Provorov a real partner should be priority number one this summer. Maybe his fancy stats are underwhelming and perceived to be on the downturn because he’s alone on a terrible hockey team which has been on the downturn for the past few seasons as a whole themselves, ironically enough.
It’s an expensive trade and an expensive contract, but that rings true for any top defenseman. If Hamilton becomes available in free agency, there’d be no assets wasted to acquire him, but the financial side will probably be much more expensive. If Fletcher circles back to Nashville, who the Flyers were supposedly in talks with before the train came off the rails back in March, they’d have to give up assets in a trade for 31-year-old Mattias Ekholm whose team-friendly deal expires in 2022, or 30-year-old Ryan Ellis, who is signed for six more years at $6.25 million a season and has an injury history to worry about.
The Flyers don’t have much of a choice. There is simply no perfect option available for the Flyers and they need help and need it in a big way. If against all odds Dougie Hamilton hits the free agent market, we can start having conversations about picking between one or the other, until then, Jones is the best option available and will be a huge improvement to this current team. It’s a move Chuck Fletcher has to make and, whether he does or doesn’t, will have ripple effects on the franchise for years to come.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: 1stohiobattery.com