COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets took care of one of their biggest offseason priorities by signing defenseman Seth Jones to a $32.4 million, six-year contract.
Jones, a pending restricted free agent, will count $5.4 million against the salary cap through the 2020-21 NHL season.
Agent Pat Brisson confirmed the terms of the contract, which includes a modified no-trade clause in years five and six.
Jones was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft to the Nashville Predators. The Blue Jackets acquired him in a January trade that sent center Ryan Johansen to Nashville.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Jones is "a huge part of the young core that we believe in."
"Acquiring Seth Jones was very important to our organization and reaching a long-term agreement with him to remain a Blue Jacket was a priority," Kekalainen said.
"At 21, Seth is just beginning to tap into his potential as a player. He has everything you look for in a defenseman and is going to be a very important player and leader on our team for many years."
In three NHL seasons, Jones has 17 goals and 66 assists for 83 points. Last season he led Columbus defensemen with 31 points despite playing just 41 games with the team after the trade.
Jones could've signed an offer sheet with another team Friday, and the cap-strapped Blue Jackets very likely would have matched. This way, they got the deal done on their terms.
The Arlington, Texas, native and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones said he never entertained thoughts of joining another team.
"I really like the way the team's going," Jones said at a news conference Wednesday. "I really did want to stay here and get something done."
A right-handed shooting defenseman, Jones was a luxury for the Predators, who already had a strong blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis and on Wednesday acquired P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens for captain Shea Weber.
For the Blue Jackets it was worth parting with Johansen to get Jones, who has the potential to be an elite No. 1 defenseman as he develops.
Jones averaged 22:04 of ice time last season and set career highs in assists, points and shots on goal.
After using up significant cap space to sign Jones, the Blue Jackets bought out the final two years of defenseman Fedor Tyutin's contract. He was set to count $4.5 million against the cap, and this move saves almost $3.3 million.
"Fedor Tyutin is a pro in every sense of the word and has been an important player for the Columbus Blue Jackets for many years, but this decision is a result of the current depth on our blue line and to add some financial flexibility for our club moving forward," Kekalainen said.
Moving forward also means the upcoming Las Vegas expansion draft. Tyutin was one of six Blue Jackets players with a no-movement clause and thus would have had to be protected, leaving Columbus forced to expose some of its stars.
"No-move clauses have to be protected," Kekalainen said. "Everybody can draw their conclusion from that."