The Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets made the biggest deal prior to the 2021 NHL draft, as the Blue Jackets traded star defenseman Seth Jones, the 32nd overall pick in the draft, as well as a 2022 6th round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Adam Boqvist, the 12th overall pick, the 44th overall pick, and a conditional 1st round pick. If the Blackhawks win one of the 2022 draft lotteries, then they owe the Blue Jackets their first round selection in 2023. If they make the playoffs or do not win one of the draft lotteries in 2022, Columbus will receive their 2022 1st round pick instead.
Two weeks earlier, the Blackhawks traded future hall-of-famer Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Seth’s brother Caleb Jones. Not only did the Blackhawks clear $4.6 million in cap space that was critical for this move, but they also set themselves up perfectly to make a more compelling pitch for Seth Jones to sign a long term extension with the club, which he ended up doing after the trade was completed. Jones inked an eight-year, $76 million contract with an AAV of $9.5 million. When we examined the Career AB arbitration analyzer, what we found its astounding. Seth Jones career AB comparable was Chris Pronger, as Pronger’s average points/AB was 34.36 to Jones’ 33.91. When this contract kicks in, Seth Jones will be twenty-eight years old. At twenty-eight, according to CapFriendly, Pronger was making $9.5 million as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Contrary to popular belief, we think that this Jones extension is a very good deal for the Chicago Blackhawks for at least 5-6 years of the contract. Jones is a career 0.493 PPG defenseman who has a career AB score of -1.84 despite two seasons in which he registered a -11 or worse individual score. His 2020-21 score of -11.68 was his worst since his rookie year with the Nashville Predators in 2013-14. If we were to remove both of those seasons, he’s a +1.7 career AB player with four positive seasons registered out of six. Production wise, Jones had five goals and twenty-three assists in a full fifty-six games for the Blue Jackets this season while averaging just above twenty-five minutes per night. It’s also worth mentioning that Jones has recorded twenty-four points (five goals and nineteen assists) in thirty-seven playoff games with the Blue Jackets and Predators (0.64 Playoff PPG). Seth Jones also has an NHL record for most ice time in a single game, as he logged 65:05 in a five overtime playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020. Of the Blackhawks current defense group, he ranks 2nd in career AB trailing only Calvin De Hann. Jones is also a right shot defenseman, which, as we all know, aren’t very easy to come by. We believe the Blackhawks are a better team today as a result of this trade and they will certainly be a team to watch going forward, as they also acquired Marc-Andre Fleury and Tyler Johnson in addition to Jones this offseason.
With the little leverage they had in this situation, we believe Jarmo Kekäläinen, John Davidson, and the rest of the Blue Jackets front office team did quite well in this trade, significantly kickstarting their rebuild. In his draft year, Adam Boqvist showed tremendous upside, so much so that the Blackhawks selected him 8th overall in the 2018 NHL draft. In the 2018-19 season with the London Knights, Boqvist scored 20 goals and registered 40 assists for sixty points in fifty-four games, while only registering twelve penalty minutes, which was simply incredible. This performance, including a brief, fifteen game stint with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, saw Boqvist make his way to the NHL in 2019-20, as he played in forty-one games with the Blackhawks. In those forty-one games, he scored four goals with nine assist for thirteen points and only six registered penalty minutes. In thirty-five games this past season in 2020-21, Boqvist scored two goals with fourteen assists for sixteen points. His career AB is a -1.82, but at twenty-years old, the potential for Boqvist to make a significant improvement if given a bigger opportunity in Columbus is clearly there.
With the 12th overall pick acquired in this trade, the Blue Jackets selected Cole Sillinger. Along with CBJ’s 5th overall pick Kent Johnson, the club immediately obtained their undisputed top two prospects in this 2021 NHL draft. In his time with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, Sillinger played in 52 games, in which he scored twenty-two goals and registered thirty-three assists for fifty-five points. Sillinger was also +20 in those two seasons. In the 2020-21 season with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, Sillinger played in thirty one games, scoring twenty-four goals with twenty-two assists for forty-six points. According to our Junior Hockey research and analysis, the Medicine Hat Tigers organization has produced very good AB players, as we have full career data on ten players since the creation of our metric in 2007. On average, a player entering the league who spent the majority of their development playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers organization registered a first year AB score of +1.63 and has an average career AB sore of +2.50. In fact, of the 169 organizations and universities studied in our research, the Medicine Hat Tigers have the 2nd highest average first year AB score of any team with 10 or more players studied. They trail only the Barrie Colts’ average score of +2.72. If Sillinger falls into that category early on, Columbus may have gotten an excellent player at twelve. For a team that lacked organizational depth at center heading into the 2021 draft, the Blue Jackets, with Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger, appear to be heading in the right direction. In addition to these fine young players, Columbus acquired a 2nd rounder that they used to select Aleksi Heimosalmi and an additional first round pick.
We think both teams did very well with this trade, as we see the benefits for both sides in the short and long term. There is so much more to come as we will dissect each teams offseason in greater detail at a later date in the summer. Thank you all for reading as always.