The Columbus Blue Jackets have been entirely unable to hold on to their high end free agents in recent years and unfortunately for the fans in that market it sounds like that trend will continue with star defenseman Seth Jones.
On Saturday night National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that Jones has, at some point over the last couple of days, informed his team that he does not intend to re-sign with them and will instead test free agency when his contract expires at the end of next season.
"Well we can tell you that sometime in the last week or so, Seth Jones informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he will not be re-signing," said Friedman on Saturday's Headlines segment. "Now I'm saying for now at this point because I don't like to deal in absolutes, but it does appear as if he is prepared to test free agency and we will see how Columbus decides to handle this over the next little while."
The obvious implication in Friedman's comments here is that the Blue Jackets will now no doubt begin to look for a team interested in acquiring Jones via a trade, rather than lose him for nothing at all at the end of next season. The silver lining here for the Blue Jackets is that Jones has given them a full year's worth of a heads up, which means that they will have the opportunity to seek out a trade prior to the regular season, at the National Hockey League Entry Draft or possibly even at the trade deadline if they do decide to wait it out for that long.
Jones is currently on a 6 year contract that paid him an average annual value of $5.4 million per season and there's no doubt that he will get a big time raise on his next deal regardless of where he ends up. The downside of this deal for the Blue Jackets is that it carries a modified no trade clause in the final 2 seasons of the contract, and Jones is now within that period and will be able to block a trade to as many as 10 teams in the National Hockey League.
Obviously this is a huge blow to the Blue Jackets franchise but given the way their team has trended over the course of this season it may not be the worse thing for them to begin to look towards their long term future, and trading a player like Jones could help them acquire the assets that they will need to do that.
The long term implications here could be significant however with star forward Patrik Laine set to be a restricted free agent this summer and question marks already surrounding his long term future with the Jackets. I suspect that this news could impact Laine's willingness to sign a long term deal with the Blue Jackets moving forward, especially when you consider the fact that the Jackets have had some serious struggles when it comes to signing and keeping big name free agents in their recent history.