The Calgary Flames have decisions to make with three pending unrestricted free agent skaters. But while there’s plenty of discussion about the futures of Kris Russell and Jiri Hudler, the conversation isn’t as heated when it comes to what’s next for David Jones. Of the three, I think the best case can be made to give Jones a new contract, under the right circumstances. I’ve got three reasons why re-signing Jones makes sense.
Jones is currently in the final year of a four year, $16 million deal signed with the Avalanche prior to his trade to Calgary in the summer of 2013. Since joining the Flames, Jones hasn’t been incredible by any stretch. He has been, however, a decent NHL winger who has put together some nice offensive stretches in his time with Calgary. So why re-sign a 31-year-old at this stage in the game? Let’s find out.
1. He’s an effective player
When put in the proper circumstances, Jones can be an effective player for what he is. No one is confusing him for Phil Kessel, but at the very least you know he’s not going to hurt you. In the right spot, he can help a team. I think Kent Wilson put it best a few years ago when he said, as I paraphrase: “I’m not sure exactly what Jones is, but I know he’s an NHL forward”.
The way Jones has been used in recent times has been interesting. On a tough minutes line with Joe Colborne and Matt Stajan, Jones has been hammered with defensive zone starts against some pretty decent opposition and has done an all right job under the circumstances.
Starting just 36.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone through 21 games, only Stajan has seen less favourable time on the team this year. Now, we’re not talking about Jones putting up crazy totals when it comes to what he does with his tough circumstances, but he’s also not getting crushed. His 45.3% possession rate is certainly passable for his role and looks a little better on a negative possession team like Calgary.
This isn’t just a this season thing, either. Jones also had the third lowest OZS% last season at 35.9% to go along with a CF% of 43.8. Again, we’re not talking about Selke Trophy stuff here, but we’re also not talking about throwaway minutes, either. Jones is passable in his role and a coaching staff can count on him to take the tougher defensive minutes, not get dominated, and hopefully set up the next shift in a better spot.
2. The Flames need wingers
The Flames are not what you’d call super deep on the wing. As it is, they have centres like Sam Bennett and Joe Colborne playing the wing instead of their natural positions. Natural wingers, specifically on the right side, are something the team can certainly use right now.
Specifically because Jones is ideally a bottom six option, having him in the fold for the next few years gives you a reliable and painless option on the right side. Jones is either better than, or a better fit than, players like Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, and Micheal Ferland as a depth winger.
It’s not like Calgary has a plethora of potential NHL wingers knocking on the door right now, either. Emile Poirier still looks a ways away from being a full timer at the highest level. Right now, I can’t honestly think of anyone else in the system who we can confidently say could step in next year and do a better job than Jones. Guys like Morgan Klimchuk, Bill Arnold, Turner Elson, Garnet Hathaway, and Drew Shore are all fun to talk about, but we have nothing that says they can get the job done on a consistent basis.
If an argument for not keeping Jones beyond this year is “there might maybe, possible, potentially be better players on the farm” then I think you’re grasping at straws. Besides, if someone DOES surprise us and prove ready for an NHL job in September, then it’s not like Jones is going to be a boat anchor going forward. That brings us to our final point.
3. He’ll be cheap
The Flames can very likely get Jones on a very affordable new contract. No one is in love with his current deal, because $4 million a season for the role he’s playing doesn’t make sense. But if Calgary can get Jones back at, say, two more years on a $2 million AAV, is that totally crazy?
It might have been a little less crazy two years ago, but I think we all learned some lessons about free agency this summer. Make no mistake, Jones and his agent will have paid close attention to what happened this past summer. We saw effective players like Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross have to risk it with PTO’s because guaranteed contract offers just weren’t there.
I can’t speak for Jones, but I think there’s a pretty decent chance he’d opt for something guaranteed in Calgary as opposed to rolling the dice in July. I’m not saying there’s no chance he’d take his chances in free agency as I have no clue what type of things he talks about with his agent. I do know, however, that teams seem to have more leverage than they’ve ever had before when it comes to free agency.
If the Flames choose to use that leverage they have a shot at getting Jones back in the fold at a very reduced price. If not, well, then he’ll get a hearty handshake on the way out the door.
The only way re-signing Jones makes sense is if the price is right, so point number three is probably the most important one here. A shorter term extension at a reduced price tag makes this a conversation I believe is worth having. If those conditions aren’t met, then you move on and that’s that. This conversation changes, of course, if Calgary is out of it when the calendar turns to 2016. In that case I think we’re probably leaning far more to getting what you can for Jones in a trade.
For the time being, though, Jones still has a few years left of being a decent NHLer who can be deployed in a specific role. Knowing Calgary is already thin on the wing, I don’t think it’s totally out of the question to see Jones back beyond this year.