Ok, everyone with me again?
Seth Jones is now a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, and he’s going to be one for a long, long time.
After being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the NHL Entry Draft on Friday night, Jones is the newest member of the next “core” in Chicago. In fact, he might be the most important member of that core, not only for what he’s expected to do on the ice, but also for what he is going to mean to the Blackhawks overall plans.
Part of the deal to get Jones was a massive eight-year, $76M contract extension (one he will sign with Chicago on Wednesday when free agency officially opens up). Jones still has one year left on his current deal at a $5.4M AAV cap hit, but the additional $76M will kick in at the start of the 2022-23 season at $9.5M per year. So 2022-23 is starting to look pretty significant, eh?
Ah, but it already is! That’s when the contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews come to an end … and also the contracts of President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman and Head Coach Jermey Colliton. But that’s not all.
Heading into the summer BEFORE the 2022-23 season, each of Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, Philipp Kurashev, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Dominik Kubalík will need new contracts. Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy might, as well. The Blackhawks will also have to figure out what they are doing with their goaltending position, since they have no NHL-level players signed for the 2022-23 season in net. That’s A LOT to figure out in a short amount of time with less flexibility than ever.
According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks currently have about $5.9M in cap space left to work with this offseason. They have $50.5M already committed against the cap for the 2022-23 season and that is with just 19 out of a possible 50 contracts on the books.
Making matters worse, the salary cap is going to be flat from 2020-21 to 2021-22 at $81.5M, and there’s no guarantee that the cap will increase following next season. The league is potentially still going to be recovering after the financial losses they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the past two seasons. With the addition and extension of Jones, the “rebuild” sure seems like it’s “over,” eh?
All-in-all, for a team that said they were going to fully commit to a rebuilding process, this sure seems like a move that has hedged the future and put their hopes and dreams almost squarely on Seth Jones’ shoulders. The Blackhawks lose Adam Boqvist, the 12th overall pick and their 2022 first-round selection for a player that will be 27-years-old when the 2021-22 season starts and is coming off of some poor years.
Maybe the change of scenery from Columbus brings out the old Seth Jones – the Seth Jones who put up 145 points in 228 games between the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons with the Blue Jackets. But the Blackhawks are going to need Jones to be that AND more, especially for $9.5M every year.