The Blackhawks May Already Be the “Front-Runner” for Seth Jones

The Blackhawks’ interest in accelerating their rebuild with an elite level defenseman has been discussed loudly and often this offseason. And that was before they traded Duncan Keith to the Oilers. The draft remains one way to fill this need, but it’s certainly less sexy (and far less immediate/certain) than going after a true No. 1 defenseman like Seth Jones or Dougie Hamilton, to whom they’ve been connected all summer.

And while trading for Caleb Jones, Seth’s brother (more on him later today), won’t be much of a factor in any such deal, Seth is likely to be on the move before the season or at the deadline (because he told the Blue Jackets he won’t re-sign with the club once his contract ends after the 2021-22 season). So add it all up and … are you really surprised to learn that the Blackhawks may be the front-runners for Seth Jones?

Here’s the latest via Craig Custance and Dom Luszczyszyn at the The Athletic (emphasis mine):

One team said their expectation is that Jones’ preference is to play in Chicago, Dallas or Florida, although those aren’t his only options. Chicago has been mentioned most recently because of the Keith trade ….

The Blackhawks may be the front-runner. Guys love playing in Chicago. The concern is whether or not the team is close to real playoff contention, something Jones will have to weigh.

The Athletic characterizes the likelihood of a Jones deal (to any team) as “high,” and mentions Dallas and Florida as two other possibilities. But the writing is clear: “The Blackhawks may be the front-runner.”

So … great, right? After trading Keith, the Blackhawks have the need and financial flexibility to add someone like Jones (and, of course, the desire was already there before Jones’ brother was traded to Chicago). Meanwhile, Jones may actually prefer to play in Chicago, where he could help shorten the timeline of this rebuild and return the Blackhawks to their rightful place among the league’s best teams.

Ah … not so fast.

There’s still the enormous hurdle of the acquisition cost. Back in mid-June, when these rumors first emerged, the expectation was that any Seth Jones deal would require a first-round draft pick, a second-round draft pick, and a high-end prospect. A lot to ask, no doubt, but not completely out of the question. Unfortunately, it only got steeper from there.

After that report came out, one league source told Mark Lazerus (The Athletic) that “Kirby Dach likely would have to be part of any deal for Jones.” And it’s gotten even worse since.

Just yesterday, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek speculated that a Seth Jones deal for the Blackhawks “starts with Dach” and ALSO includes some combination of Ian Mitchell, a draft pick, and either Alex DeBrincat or Adam Boqvist.

Our official position on that theoretical proposal? HARD. PASS. 

The Blackhawks have already said that they have no interest in trading Kirby Dach (and it’s not like his trade value is exactly an all-time high, either) and giving up Alex DeBrincat should also be a non-starter in 99% of trade packages after his bounceback this season. As Mario put it yesterday: “Jones is a good player, a top-tier defenseman that would make a huge impact on the blue-line for the Blackhawks, but at that price, you hedge your future and pretty much make the team worse.”

Making this all the less likely? Custance and Luszczyszyn get into the asking price, and it might be even more aggressive than what was already laid out (and shot down) above: “[Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Keklainen] doesn’t need draft picks. He wants young players. Centermen.”

That was just the opinion of one anonymous executive, whose motivations could be extremely wide-ranging and are almost certainly self-serving, but it’s another data point for this rumor.

And the fact remains that Jones has just one more year of team control at $5.4 million before hitting unrestricted free agency. Perhaps some sort of extension would/could be worked out in advance of completing any sort of deal (that anonymous executive hints in this direction), but that is decidedly NOT what you’re getting in a trade.

I don’t have much of a conclusion for you here right now, but I can say that this smoke is pervasive and the interest seems genuine on all sides. The acquisition cost may forever be too high to get something done without being counterproductive for Chicago, but that’s what negotiations are for. Let’s see if they can get this one done.

To keep up with this rumor and the latest on the Blackhawks, make sure you’re following us on Twitter and hit that like button on Facebook:

written by

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami

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