The Columbus Blue Jackets would need to consider all options if defenseman Seth Jones chooses not to sign a long-term contract extension with the team, Blue Jackets president John Davidson told the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday.
“If [Jones] chooses not to sign a long-term deal, I won’t disrespect him for it,” Davidson told the Dispatch. “He has that right. I mean, that’s the business of hockey. He’s a player we’d love to have for the long term, but if that’s not going to work out, then we have to do what we have to do to protect our franchise to continue to build a hockey club with players that want to be here. It’s that simple.”
The 26-year-old has one year remaining on a six-year, $32.4 million contract ($5.4 million annual average value) he signed June 29, 2016, and can become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Davidson, who returned to the organization May 20, said there has been good communication between Jones and Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
“Seth’s been very open with Jarmo,” Davidson said. “They’ve had great discussions and they’re going to continue having discussions and they’re going to be in-house. It’s professional. That’s the way we want to do our business.”
On Saturday, Sportsnet reported Jones has no immediate plans to sign an extension and is interested in pursuing free agency, something Jones alluded to when he spoke at the end of the regular season.
“I think it’s a situation that you only get it once in your lifetime and, yeah, there’s a lot of pressure and people are looking at you from all over,” Jones said May 10. “I really have to take a step back and think about what I want. I could very well be here, but I’m just unwinding right now, and I’ll obviously be in touch with Jarmo very soon.
“I’m definitely not making a decision right now. I’m here for another year. I plan to be here for another year, and we’ll see where that goes.”
Jones has scored 223 points (50 goals, 173 assists) in 381 NHL games since the Blue Jackets acquired him in a trade with the Nashville Predators for center Ryan Johansen on Jan. 6, 2016. Jones scored 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 56 games this season, when Columbus (18-26-12) tied with the Detroit Red Wings for seventh place in the eight-team Discover Central Division and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
“I think everyone knows how important [Jones] is as a person and as a player to the city and the organization,” defenseman Zach Werenski said.
Jones could be one of many decisions facing the Blue Jackets. Forward Patrik Laine can become a restricted free agent July 28 and Columbus needs to hire a coach after it announced May 9 that John Tortorella would not return after six seasons.
Captain Nick Foligno was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of a three-team deal with the San Jose Sharks on April 11, when the Blue Jackets acquired a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft from the Maple Leafs.
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Artemi Panarin and center Matt Duchene left in free agency after the 2018-19 season. Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to Winnipeg Jets for Laine on Jan. 23. Forward Josh Anderson was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 6, 2020 for center Max Domi and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.