When Seth Jones informed the Columbus Blue Jackets that he would not sign an extension when his contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, there was no shortage of suitors looking to acquire the four-time All-Star defenseman.
And the one team that emerged as an early frontrunner from the beginning was the Blackhawks, who were reportedly one of only two teams that Jones would sign an extension with. Dallas, where he grew up, was the other.
The Blackhawks pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal for Jones on Friday, acquiring the 26-year-old defenseman for defenseman Adam Boqvist and a pair of first-round draft picks. Jones has agreed to an eight-year, $76 million extension that will be made official on Wednesday, and he couldn't be more thrilled to call Chicago his home for the next nine years.
"The history of the organization, trusting Stan [Bowman] and the staff to do a good job to put teams together, and to have the opportunity to play with a couple Hall of Famers," Jones said when asked what made him want to commit to the Blackhawks long term. "So, the whole package. I love coming to Chicago, it's a great city, it's a sports town and something I've always dreamt about playing in this city. Extremely happy I'm finally in a Blackhawks jersey."
The Blackhawks officially introduced Seth and Caleb Jones to Chicago on Saturday, with the brothers throwing out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in the afternoon before holding a press conference on a boat cruise along the Chicago River.
"I didn't realize it gets this hot in Chicago in the summer, to be honest," Seth said smiling. "We didn't completely botch the first pitches. We threw it a little high, so we made sure to get it there."
Caleb was acquired by the Blackhawks two weeks before Seth, and it was easy to connect the dots that Chicago was trying to entice Seth to join him. But the Blackhawks expect Caleb to play a role on this team, and Caleb expects that of himself too.
"They have a lot of guys that are my age," Caleb said of the blue line group. "I've actually played more games than a lot of the young guys they have, so [Stan] thinks I can bring a little bit more experience. I've got close to 100 games. I'm just going to come in and compete and put my best foot forward and see what happens come Opening Night."
For Seth, he understands the Blackhawks are counting on him to be their No. 1 defenseman for many years to come. And after an off year by his standards, Seth believes he can still be that guy and that he really hasn't reached his ceiling yet.
"Offensively, I can get a little bit better," he said. "I've been really focusing on that the past few summers. When I get chances to put the puck in the net, [I want to] capitalize on those opportunities. Offensive awareness-wise, really trying to hunker down on where to go and try to find little soft areas where I can make more offensive plays happen."
Seth has been a polarizing figure in the hockey universe since his name hit the trade rumor mill. Experts in the game believe he's an elite all-around defenseman with Norris Trophy potential while the analytics community will argue he's been on the decline for the last couple years.
Seth said he doesn't read too much into what people are saying on social media, but he understands there are always going to be doubters. And while he may not say it out loud, you can bet Seth is coming to Chicago with a chip on his shoulder.
"You have just roll with them," Seth said. "There's always going to be critics of your game, and you can choose not to listen to them or you can choose to listen. Some of them are wrong, some of them aren't, and I'll be the first one to say that.
"I just want to prove every single night that I'm going to work hard for this team, no matter if I make the mistake or not. But more times than not, I'm hoping to be successful in the plays I make and the consistency I bring, the leadership I bring every night."