This is shaping up to be the offseason of the defenceman. There are big decisions coming for a number of them. Some may re-sign, some may hit the market, some may be traded. In any case, the market for blueliners promises to be active.
The list is long: Seth Jones, Dougie Hamilton, Morgan Rielly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Matt Dumba, Mattias Ekholm, Rasmus Ristolainen, Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Alec Martinez, Josh Manson, Brandon Montour and David Savard among others.
Defenceman after defenceman after defenseman.
Some are pending UFAs like Hamilton, Barrie, Larsson, Martinez, Savard and Montour.
Some have a year left on their deals forcing potential decisions such as Jones, Rielly, Ekholm, Manson and Ristolainen.
The expansion draft looms large on so many fronts and it potentially could have an impact on what happens with a lot of these guys before July 21. Which stands to reason.
Many teams looking to upgrade on defence might already have three blueliners they had planned to protect in the Seattle expansion draft so it would behoove them to wait until after July 21 to make their move. Although maybe there’s risk in that too as far as missing out.
Poker face time.
Let’s take a look at a few of these d-men.
Make no mistake, teams are already calling the Blue Jackets.
“The level of interest is off the charts,’’ one league source said this week.
Again, no surprise.
It’s not every day a 26-year-old, stud right-handed defenceman finds himself on the trade market.
The question remains whether Jones moves as a one-year rental or whether it’s part of a trade where he signs an extension with his new team to garner Columbus the bigger return.
I think the Jones camp, led by Pat Brisson, can live with either scenario depending on which teams are involved. Not every trade suitor will make the shortlist in terms of potentially signing an extension.
The Flyers, as I suggested might be the case back in May, are interested in Jones, sources confirmed this week.
I mean, it’s a perfect fit in so many ways. Not just because of the hole on the right side of Philly’s blue line but because the Flyers have some young players in their 20s they can entice the Jackets with. Not every Jones trade suitor can say that.
But, as one might imagine, there’s indeed a long list of teams that want to get in on this.
One thing I wonder about: What if nothing lines up between the Jackets and a team that Jones wants to extend? Would Columbus just wait and dangle him at next season’s trade deadline instead? As one rival front office source suggested to me this week, his rental value might be higher at the deadline when teams often overpay when they think they can win.
Given that Jones has made it clear he’s not signing in Columbus, the best-case scenario for the Jackets is that he’s dealt this offseason and signs a long-term deal with his new team, helping Columbus get the biggest return possible.
The veteran top-four rearguard just turned 31 last month but remains an impactful player. If these playoffs have reinforced anything it’s that big blueliners make a difference at this time of year.
Here’s what I do know. Ekholm’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, told me that his client is interested in signing an extension. The feeling is mutual, according to a Preds source.
Ekholm has got one more year left at his bargain $3.75-million AAV deal.
It’s nice that there’s mutual interest in getting an extension done, but both sides have to agree on what that deal looks like. Negotiations have not begun yet.