What to Make of Blackhawks' Blockbuster Trade for Seth Jones

What to make of Blackhawks' trade for Seth Jones originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For years, the Blackhawks have been looking for Duncan Keith's successor as the franchise's No. 1 defenseman. And they finally got one on Friday by swinging for the fences.

Moments before the start of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks officially acquired defenseman Seth Jones in a blockbuster deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets that involved defenseman Adam Boqvist and a pair of first-round picks.

Jones, who has one year left on his contract that carries a $5.4 million cap hit, has reportedly agreed to an eight-year, $76 million extension ($9.5 million cap hit) that will be made official on Wednesday.

The move sent shockwaves across the NHL, so let's unpack this step by step from Chicago's standpoint:

  • The Blackhawks landed an elite defenseman without giving up Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and top prospect Lukas Reichel. That should be viewed as a win. Columbus originally wanted Dach and/or DeBrincat, but that was a non-starter for Chicago, for obvious reasons.
  • The Blackhawks retained a first-round draft pick in 2021, but it was their position that changed. They went from No. 12 to No. 32, which is a significant jump, but they're still going to get a potential impact-type player added to the pipeline.
  • The Blackhawks made sure to protect the 2022 first-round draft pick by making it lottery protected. If the pick falls inside the Top 2, the selection will belong to Chicago and the first-rounder that goes to Columbus will be in 2023.
  • The Blackhawks had high aspirations for Boqvist. When they drafted him No. 8 overall in 2018, Erik Karlsson was viewed as a potential comparable if he truly hit his ceiling. But his progression got off to a tough start after he was thrown into the NHL fire a year before he was ready and he's still trying to establish himself as a top-four defenseman. If the Blackhawks weren't going to include Dach, DeBrincat or Reichel, they had to give up one of their young defensemen and Boqvist was the guy.
  • The contract extension for Jones is what got the most attention on social media, and understandably so. As of Friday, only 19 other defensemen have cap hits of at least $9.5 million. It's a high number, but the Blackhawks needed to pay it in order to plug in a glaring hole.
  • Jones is going to be 35 years old by the end of his eight-year contract. Will he be worth his $9.5 million cap hit in the final couple years of the deal? Unlikely. But this wasn't the Blackhawks handing an aging veteran on the decline a massive deal. He's at the center of his prime right now.
  • Yes, Jones had an “off” year by his standards. He would probably be the first to admit it, too. But he’s still one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the league. Let's not pretend like he wasn't a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate going into the 2020-21 season.

Did the Blackhawks pay a big price to acquire Jones? Yes. Did they overpay on the average annual value? Probably.

But at some point, the Blackhawks need to start taking steps forward as a team and they immediately got better with the acquisition of Jones without really mortgaging the future.

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