NHL trade advice: Aim for Matt Dumba instead of Seth Jones

NHL trade advice: Aim for Matt Dumba instead of Seth Jones
Getty Images

When it comes to building an NHL team, you almost always need an elite center and a great goalie. But when it comes to other positions high-in-demand, it’s difficult to find talented right-handed defensemen. Between 2021 NHL Free Agency, a flat cap, and the unique pressures of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, it seems like there’s an especially robust trade market for right-handed defensemen.

No doubt about it, Seth Jones — currently, maybe temporarily, of the Blue Jackets — is the biggest name after word surfaced that he won’t sign a new contract with Columbus.

Jones’ name has surfaced, and is likely to continue to bubble up, in plenty of NHL trade rumors until the Blue Jackets finally (inevitably?) move him. Most recently, Pierre LeBrun passed along word from a league source that “the level of interest is off the charts” for a Seth Jones trade (sub required at The Athletic).

In hindsight, we might look at the NHL team who trades for Seth Jones as huge winners. But, all things considered, a Seth Jones trade comes with a huge “buyer beware” label. Here’s why a team looking to trade for Seth Jones should look elsewhere, maybe starting with Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

As a reminder: Jones, 26, will see his $5.45M cap hit expire after next season. So a team would get one cheap year of Jones … but everything else about trading for him sounds expensive.

The burning question: How good is Seth Jones, really?

Here’s a confession: NHL defensemen are hard to predict. In a May breakdown of what Seth Jones’ next contract might look like, Alison Lukan put it well for 1st Ohio Battery:

After all, how do you measure the prevention of something that was supposed to happen?

As early as last June, the debate about Seth Jones really started to heat up. Plenty, especially those in the mainstream, continued and continue to believe that Jones is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. But certain eye tests, and plenty of “fancy stats” argue otherwise.

Compare, for instance, how Seth Jones and Matt Dumba line up at even-strength over the last three seasons by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts:

(If you forgive Jones the 2020-21 season, things look slightly rosier, but mainly just bring Dumba down to Jones’ troubling level.)

Now, could it be true that Seth Jones is a right-handed hockey defenseman Transformer? Could there be more than meets the eyes of those charts? Or could it be that Jones is fooling those well-trained eyes?

Often, when you watch Seth Jones play defense, he certainly looks good. His physical skills are considerable. But shouldn’t that translate to better underlying numbers?

If you trade for Seth Jones, you’re making a huge bet that you’re right, and those red flags are instead red herrings.

A trade for Dumba instead of Jones: Lower risk, higher reward?

Make no mistake about it: whoever trades for Seth Jones will almost certainly be making huge investments.

  • Again, LeBrun describes the interest in Jones as “off the charts.” That sure sounds like a bidding war, especially for the Blue Jackets, who probably didn’t want to trade Seth Jones in the first place.
  • Meanwhile, Dumba has bubbled up in Wild trade rumors for a long time thanks in part to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. So, you might be able to trade for Matt Dumba below his trade value. (Either way, his name just keeps coming up; do not take a shot* every time Dumba’s name comes up in these two articles from The Athletic’s Michael Russo.)
  • A Seth Jones trade is likely to cost a lot in pure assets. Then you must consider how much Jones’ next contract might cost.

Going back to Lukan’s article in May, estimates ranged from the low-end of $7.5M, to perhaps $8-$9M, or even $10M.

And that’s where things get a little scary for a potential Seth Jones trade suitor. Because mainstream perception is so high for Jones, you’ll almost certainly be paying top dollar.

It’s easiest to imagine Jones flourishing if it’s a matter of a system change. Maybe he just looked worse under John Tortorella? But Jones is entering a contract year, and will cost a lot in a trade, so would a team really want to wait to find out?

They’re most likely to pay top dollar with a proactive extension that could look very bad, very soon.

* – Seriously, don’t.

Some buyer beware examples

Consider some of the biggest contracts for NHL defensemen, and you’ll see a lot of big regrets. Some aren’t even that far off from Sergei Bobrovsky territory:

No, not every big defenseman contract instantly becomes an albatross. But any team looking to trade for Seth Jones should tread lightly. (Even when the dollars aren’t as big, the risk can outweigh the reward. See: Justin Faulk.)

Less risky paths than a Seth Jones trade + contract extension

Again, it’s plausible that Seth Jones proves his strongest proponents right. He’s talented, and defensemen have defied expectations before.

Personally, though? I’d prefer going for lower risks, with maybe even better rewards.

  • My first example remains Matt Dumba. They’re both 26, can generate offense, and are right-handed defensemen. Dumba almost certainly would cost less in trade assets, and his $6M cap hit runs through 2022-23. His next contract is almost certainly going to be significantly cheaper than what Seth Jones will get. If somehow Dumba costs more/similarly to Jones, then … you probably struck gold, anyway, right?
  • Now, Dumba isn’t perfect. Maybe you want to swing for the fences? If so, Dougie Hamilton could either be signed as a free agent, or trade for, then signed. (I’d have the same worries about Hamilton souring like Karlsson/etc., though. Hence my preference for Dumba.)
  • Maybe you’re not picky about handedness? Mattias Ekholm could be your man. At age 31, it’s conceivable that he’d cost less and demand less term. (Sometimes, term is the toughest thing to stomach.)

Overall, the point is that there are less risky trade/free agent options than Jones. And there’s an uncomfortable possibility that, even ignoring the cost of a trade and new contract, someone like Dumba might just end up being better than Jones, anyway.

Either way, there’s no denying that it’s pretty fun stuff to talk about. Do you think Seth Jones is worth the risk of a trade, and almost certainly a resulting contract extension?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

    They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

    It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

    Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

    “I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

    Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

    Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

    “They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

    Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

    It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

    Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

    “We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

    Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

    Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

    “He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

    A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

    “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

    The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

    The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

    That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

    Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

    “We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

    Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

    Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

    Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

    Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

    “I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

    Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

    The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

    Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

    Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

    He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

    Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

    The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

    Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

    Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

    Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

    Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.

    Vegas Golden Knights come back to beat Florida Panthers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS – Back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in five years and trailing the Florida Panthers less than 10 minutes into Game 1, the Vegas Golden Knights sent a very clear message.

    “We were ready,” Jonathan Marchessault said.

    Ready and dominant. Vegas rallied from an early deficit, got the go-ahead goal from Zach Whitecloud with just over 13 minutes left and arguably the best save of the playoffs from Adin Hill and beat Florida 5-2 Saturday night to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.

    “We kept out composure, and it was good,” said Marchessault, one of six original Knights players left from the start of the franchise in 2017 who scored the tying goal in the first period. “We just wanted to play the right way and be disciplined, and tonight we were able to be the better team.”

    Whitecloud put Vegas ahead, a crucial penalty kill followed and captain Mark Stone scored an insurance goal that was reviewed for a high stick and confirmed. Reilly Smith sealed it with an empty-netter to make the score look more lopsided than the game.

    The combination of that offense and Hill’s 33 saves put Vegas up after a feisty opener between Sun Belt teams who wasted little time getting acquainted with big hits during play and plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving.

    “It’s exactly what we expected,” said Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore, who scored his first goal of the playoffs and ended a 27-game drought dating to March 7. “That’s how they wanted to play. We were just trying not to play into it.”

    That stuff is just beginning. Game 2 is Monday in Las Vegas.

    Before the Panthers even get a chance to respond, they ratcheted up the physical play late after falling behind by two. A handful of penalties resulting from a fracas with 4:24 remaining left the Florida bench well short.

    The outcome was determined long before that.

    After falling behind on a short-handed goal by Eric Staal that sucked the life out of the crowd of 18,432, the Golden Knights rallied for their ninth comeback win this playoffs. Marchessault – known since arriving in Las Vegas for scoring big goals – answered before the end of the first period.

    Early in the second, Hill made a desperation stick save to rob Nick Cousins of what would have been a sure goal. The save was reminiscent of the one Washington’s Braden Holtby made against Vegas – in the same crease – five years ago.

    “That’s an unreal save – it’s a game-changer,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You need those saves at key moments.”

    Giving up a tying goal to Anthony Duclair with 10.2 seconds left in the second did not slow the Golden Knights’ momentum much. Whitecloud’s goal, with two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky screened and unable to see, fired up fans once again.

    Bobrovsky, in the final for the first time, downplayed any reason for concern after stopping 29 of 34 shots and losing for just the second time in 12 games this postseason.

    “I played a good game,” Bobrovsky said. “I played a solid game. They created some good chances other than goals. They had lots of good scoring chances, and that was fun.”

    Part of the fun came when play was stopped.

    Less than 10 minutes in, Hill was none too happy about Nick Cousins crashing into his crease and gave the agitating Panthers winger a jab that incited a handful of scrums. During the second period, Matthew Tkachuk let Vegas’ Nic Hague know he wasn’t thrilled about a hit in the corner on Cousins and a collision with Brandon Montour after the whistle.

    “If guys are going to come in my crease and try to push me around, I’m going to stand my own ground,” Hill said. “I’m not going to do anything too crazy or get too wild, but, yeah, I’ve got to stand up for myself.”

    Florida coach Paul Maurice, back in the final for the first time since 2001, displayed a similarly calm demeanor as he did all the way back in the first round, when his team fell behind 1-0 then 3-1 to NHL-best Boston before winning in seven.

    “It’s going to be tight,” Maurice said. “Everybody breathe.”

    The Golden Knights are in the final for the second time in six years of existence, five years after making it in their inaugural season. Vegas won the opener in 2018 and lost the series to Washington in five games.

    The Panthers are back playing for the Cup for the first time since 1996. Florida got swept by Colorado in that final 27 years ago, 18 months before Tkachuk, the team’s leading scorer this playoffs, was born.

    It’s the 66th different matchup of teams in the Cup final in NHL history and the 46th since the expansion era began in 1967-68. This is the first time since Washington-Vegas and just the third time since the turn of the century in which the final features two teams who have never won the league’s championship.