ESPN called him the Sharks’ most important player.
GM Doug Wilson said he was “at the top of our list of players that we had targeted.”
He was acquired at a steep price (first-rounder in ’16), signed to a big raise (three years, $9 million) and will enter this season as a (projected) No. 1 goalie for the first time in his career.
So needless to say, there’s a fair bit of pressure on Martin Jones — not that he’s fearful of the challenges ahead.
“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said earlier this summer, per CSN Bay Area. “It’s been a big couple years in my development I think, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”
Jones is high on promise and potential. He’s only 25, has good size (6-foot-4) and a ton of experience at the American League level, with nearly 150 games over the last five years.
There’s just one catch: He’s a bit of an unknown at the NHL level.
Stuck behind workhorse No. 1 Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles for the last two years, Jones made a grand total of 34 appearances for the Kings and while his numbers have been good — .923 save percentage, 1.99 GAA — it’s still a pretty small sample size.
Of course, the Sharks had an advantage of scouting Jones, thanks to playing in the Pacific Division. Jones has faced San Jose four times in his career, which included a 31-save effort in a 4-1 win at the start of the 2013-14 campaign — a game in which he was named first star.
“This is a guy we’ve seen,” Wilson said upon acquiring Jones, per CSN Bay Area. “We know a lot about him. It’s his style, his size – he’s a big goalie and highly competitive. You probably have more information on a player like this than you do a guy that you’d be drafting.”
There’s just one more wrinkle to all this.
Jones isn’t heading to any old team for the first starting gig of his career — he’s going to San Jose, a team coming off one of the most dysfunctional seasons in franchise history. The Sharks are determined to get back to the playoffs (Logan Couture all but guaranteed a return) and made two big veteran free agent splashes in Joel Ward and Paul Martin to help get back.
As such, Jones will carry additional weight in ’15-16.