Trade Deadline Risk and Reward: David Jones

Of all the pending unrestricted free agents currently on the roster for the Calgary Flames, I feel like my read on David Jones is the worst. It’s tough to differentiate between the three different outcomes for the veteran forward, mainly because they’re all potentially beneficial for the team. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away now, but I wonder if the real decision on Jones won’t come until the offseason.

This is the second of our risk and reward pieces prior to the 2016 deadline. Here’s the rundown of what we’re looking at:

  • Karri Ramo – February 8th
  • David Jones – Today
  • Jiri Hudler – Still to come
  • Kris Russell – Still to come

We’ll follow the same format in all of our pieces. So what should the Flames do with Jones? Let’s break it down.

Trade Him

Risk: To be frank, there isn’t much risk in trading Jones prior to the 29th of this month. In fact, the only risk I can think of would be the fact that there’s likely very little market for him. With a $4 million cap hit, the return on Jones is likely going to very negligible, even if he is on an expiring contract. That begs the question: is it worth trading him?

In certain situations there is a threshold of whether it’s more valuable to trade a player for very little or to keep him and let him walk. On the one hand, if you’re not going to re-sign Jones, it seems very simple to say get an asset for him if you can, regardless of what that asset is. On the flip side, though, keeping him has potential value, too.

What value is that? Well, at this point in his career, Jones plays a very specific role. He is a bottom six forward that is deployed in mostly defensive situations. That role has been clearly defined in his two-plus seasons with Calgary as illustrated below. The following table shows Corsi for percentages followed by offensive zone start ratios in three different score situations.

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 4.37.27 PM

*2015-2016 data compiled through February 12th, 2016

As you can see, Jones has a rather specific role. He sees a lot of defensive zone starts against depth opposition regardless of the score situation. As you can also see, Jones does a passable but not spectacular job in this specific role. Despite his possession numbers being the worst, or close to the worst, on the team, he doesn’t get crushed considering the circumstances. That said, we’re not talking about Selke stuff here. For what he’s being asked to do, Jones does a passable job but nothing more.

But NHL teams need bottom six forwards like this. Ideally, they shouldn’t be getting paid $4 million per season, but they still have a use because not every player can do it and not get their head beaten in. If Jones is traded for a low end pick, the Flames would be putting in a younger player in that same role who hasn’t proven he can fill the role passably. Is it worth putting Bill Arnold or Emile Poirier in that spot if there’s a risk they might struggle mightily? That’s where the threshold comes in.

Reward: If your answer to the question I just asked is yes, then trading Jones allows the Flames to open up a spot for someone else in the organization. That’s the largest potential reward for moving him, because I don’t think the team is getting much back for him in a deadline day deal.

Knowing the way this season has gone, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone from Stockton take Jones’s spot on the NHL depth chart. Four players immediately come to mind: Arnold, Poirier, Drew Shore, and Freddie Hamilton. I’d put Derek Grant in that mix too if it weren’t for the fact he suffered a broken jaw in practice earlier this month. If any of the players mentioned make it to the NHL full time, they’re likely going to be playing a similar bottom six role, so there is some value in getting their feet wet.

Keep him

Risk: The weird thing about Jones is that the word “risk” doesn’t really apply much to him. Because he’s such a middle-of-the-road player, any move made concerning Jones doesn’t carry a whole lot of risk. But, in the same vein as the reward portion of the last section, the one discernible risk to keeping Jones beyond the deadline is him holding a spot that could be filled by someone younger.

That potential risk is all defined by the readiness of players further down the organizational depth chart. The last few times I saw Poirier, he looked anything but ready for the NHL. Shore and Hamilton might be able to do the job without much issue, but the guy that interests me most is Arnold. Most reviews this season have been positive on the 2010 fourth round pick and he’s closing in on a return from a lower body injury. If keeping Jones prevented Calgary from a recall there, then there’s your risk.

Reward: Depending on how you define “keep him”, there are a few potential reasons to have Jones stay beyond the deadline. First, let’s go on the assumption the team doesn’t trade him and they let him walk in the offseason. That carries with it the simple monetary reward of having Jones’s aforementioned $4 million cap hit drop off Calgary’s cap without any issue. Knowing the money that’ll be coming on next year, that’s a valuable thing in and of itself.

If keeping him means a new contract, there is potential value in that, too. First off, Jones is going to come cheap if he comes back. I think the Flames could easily get him on a one or two year contract in the $1.5 or $2 million range. Jones won’t have a ton of leverage and, by all accounts, he likes the team and would like to remain a part of what they’re trying to build.

We’ve already outlined how Jones is a useful player, so having him on an affordable contract would definitely make a whole lot more sense. Having him play the role he does for a few more years isn’t a bad thing, because it would buy time for others to develop into full-time NHLers. Remember, this team is still in transition, and Jones is the definition of a transitional player.

Verdict

I wrote an article in November on the merits of re-signing Jones, and I think it remains relevant now. Of all the potential outcomes, I’m not necessarily against any one of them. But in thinking about what might be best for the team, I think re-signing him to a cheap, short term contract would still present the most value.

The team isn’t getting much, if anything, for him at the deadline. We’ve already established he is a somewhat useful player, and I think that is more valuable than a sixth round pick. Finally, Calgary will still save on the cap on a new deal because it’ll carry with it an annual hit much lower than what Jones is at presently. Regardless of what the team decides, let’s be honest, any risk or reward is going to be rather negligible.

Next up is Jiri Hudler.

  • piscera.infada

    Jones is definitely a curious case, I too see merit in retaining him. However, I lean more to the side of trade him for whatever you can get (assuming it’s possible, with his injury status). I mean, in the near-term I’d rather see his roster spot go to a young player. In the longer-term, that applies doubly.

    I caution against the Flames using up roster spots simply because they have them. I strongly believe that the development of prospects is entirely contingent on real opportunity being present–it’s up to the prospect, of course, to take that opportunity from there though.

    I say this in the same way I say trade Russell regardless of his contract demands. It’s imperative for this organization moving forward to foment development by offering real upward mobility. The cap savings are largely tangential, in my opinion.

  • RedMan

    you can’t fill the entire roster with prospects and not have seasoned, solid professionals to mentor and carry them over the long season (unless you want to be like Edmonton and be stuck in an eternal losing pattern)

    Jones is one of those types of veteran forwards that can be a solid contributor and example of how a pro aproaches the game and takes care of business while playing responsible and playing the game the right way.

    on a discounted contract, sign him to 3 years.

    • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

      Agreed.

      Unless you can get a GM willing to give you a second, or even an early third, the player has more value than the mid round pick you’re getting back. Jones fills a spot where the organization is thin on the right side. He should be able to provide decent third line mins for two more years & the veteran presence is still required.

      If you can’t get a second (unlikely) you’re probably better off signing him to a 2-3 year deal around $2.0/year. If he thinks he can get more, let him walk.

    • piscera.infada

      That’s a fair argument, but if you can’t rely on Giordano, Brodie, Stajan, Frolik, Backlund–basically your “important veteran pieces”, or your “their contracts are too unpalatable” pieces–to fill that role, then there are probably much larger, deeper issues within the organization.

      While I’ll grant the idea that there is no magic number with regard to keeping veterans, and that yes, veterans are important in bringing along your younger players, you can quite easily become a team that has too many “mentors”. The goal is to identify the players that are actually good mentors in addition to actual contributors. You keep those pieces around, however you need to do that carefully as it’s very easy to end up with a log-jam in the bottom-end (or typical “development spots”) of your roster–which is an issue already.

    • SoCalFlamesFan

      I agree if you have ONLY prospects then your comments would be valid but Mono and Johnny are 3 years in Brodie Hamilton Geo as the core are already seaoned. The Supporting guys Backlund etc also are more seasoned. Calgary already has more vetran presence than the oilers did when they dumped the vets. Trading post apex players now wont have the same effect effect as what happened to the north.

    • cberg

      You will already have Giordano, Brodie, Backlund and Stajan moving forward. You need a FEW vets to lead, not half the team. Jones definitely needs to go.

      Trading for anything is preferable, but letting him walk would work too. We have too many prospects that could likely do the job, and cheaper and better.

      This is a no-brainer. Anyone thinking otherwise I really wonder HOW you plan in bringing in new blood when you continue to insist on keeping slow, ineffectual, overpaid vets?

  • brodiegio4life

    I’d much rather have grant or hathaway or poirier all make a bid for his spot at training camp next year. Let one of the younger guys earn the spot on the roster and see where it goes.

  • MattyFranchise

    If the team cuts some of the dead weight like a Colbourne or a Bollig there’d be room for more a more useful player like Jones.

    I like Jones at 2 million per or less if he can be resigned for that, which with the way the league is going, depth players like him (see also: Glencross) shouldn’t reasonably expect more.

    But I’m not sure that he would be willing to take a 50% pay cut. If he makes it clear before the deadline that he won’t resign for that money then try to recoup a high 3rd or low 2nd.

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    Just read this article on TSN. Sure made Jones (and Stajan) look like liabilities (lloking at Corsi % combinations with other players).

    “You have to wonder why David Jones and Matt Stajan have been such regular fixtures for this team. They look bad in every environment, and some of those numbers (Jones is in the 30s with both Russell and Wideman) are terrifyingly bad for a playoff hopeful.”

    http://www.tsn.ca/simple-analysis-can-help-teams-ask-the-right-trade-questions-1.438701

      • ssamze

        Yost is not helping the analytic sides by omiting the context…

        Though I have to say that Stajan seems to have lost a lot of physicallity. Stil love how he plays but one has to wonder whether age has caught up with him..

  • KiLLKiND

    I don’t think we will end up trading Jones especially if the Flames do end up trading Hudler. I think we could likely get a 3rd rounder for Jones but losing two RW’s might not be something Tre is willing to do.

    If Jones does go along with Hudler our RW depth could be Frolik, Jooris, Colborne, maybe Hamilton and Poirier?

    Personally I am of the team for trading Jones. Tre got a buch of assets last year for Sven and GlenX and managed to get Hamilton, Andersson, and Kylington. I woud really like to see Jooris back in the lineup on a regular basis. Also we could shift over an LW to RW such as Ferland and bring up Agastino. It is quite clear this year is not the year Cagary wins the cup and we all know when Treliving is given a lot of draft picks good things happen.

  • Primo

    The only reason Jones is on this roster was the Tanguay trade that involved trading Tanguay (injury prone, broken body, overpaid) for Jones (inconsistent, overpaid). Hopefully we can get a 3rd/4th rounder for this guy..if not let him walk. Stockton has some big bodies (Van Brabant) that are younger, cheaper and hungrier than Jones….

  • The GREAT Walter White

    @KillKind

    “and we all know when Treliving is given a lot of draft picks good things happen.”

    Did you forget 2014?!

    MacDonald and Smith and a trade for Bollig with second and third round picks……!!??!

    He did well last year, but let’s not get carried away…..

    WW