UPDATE (6:18 p.m. PST): The Sharks and Martin Jones have agreed to a three-year contract worth $9 million, according to Jones' agent Jarrett Bousquet.
SAN JOSE – Los Angeles backup Martin Jones was near the top of the Sharks’ list of potential replacements for five-year starter Antti Niemi, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Problem was, there was no way the Kings’ Dean Lombardi was going to send the highly regarded 25-year-old to a division rival.
Whether Wilson and the Boston Bruins conspired on a deal that would eventually see Jones land in the Bay Area is unclear -- Wilson indicated that wasn’t the case in a conference call on Tuesday –- but it makes little difference now. The goaltender that Wilson said he was jonesing for (pun intended) is now his new starter.
“We’d probably be pretty disappointed if we didn’t end up acquiring this player, at this time, and for this role,” Wilson said.
“It’s been a pretty crazy couple of days,” said Jones, who was dealt to the Bruins on Friday just before the first round of the NHL draft. “I’ve never been traded before so this is all new to me. It’s exciting. Obviously it’s pretty sad leaving a place like LA, where you formed a lot of good relationships and had some great experiences, but I’m looking forward to taking on a bigger responsibility and playing in San Jose.”
Despite Wilson’s politically correct suggestions that the starting role would be a battle between Jones and Alex Stalock (or even Troy Grosenick), make no mistake – Jones is undoubtedly penciled in as the new number one for Oct. 7, when San Jose opens its season at Staples Center against his old team. You don’t deal a first round pick in 2016 and a prospect (Sean Kuraly) for a backup goalie, or even a platoon role.
[RELATED: Sharks acquire G Martin Jones from Boston]
Wilson has said for months that he's willing to surrender assets for players that fit "for now and for the future," so he plainly sees Jones as the starter for years to come.
“Even draft picks, none of those are guaranteed. This is a guy we’ve seen,” Wilson said. “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.”
Among the young goaltenders that were thought to be available headed into the offseason, Jones could be the most highly regarded. A two-time AHL All-Star, Jones’ goals-against average of 1.99 and his save percentage of .923 in 34 career NHL games with the Kings is impressive (albeit a small sample size).
It’s telling, too, that Lombardi didn’t want to trade him within the conference. There were also reports that the Calgary Flames were in hot pursuit.
“His track record as a starter in junior and the minors leads you to believe that he'll be a good number one in the NHL,” said NBC goalie analyst and former Shark Brian Boucher. “You need an opportunity to show your stuff, and this is his opportunity.”
Jones, who would have been buried behind Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask in Los Angeles and Boston, respectively, said he’s ready for more.
“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said. “It’s been a big couple years in my development I think, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”
Now, San Jose will turn its attention to unrestricted free agency, which begins on Wednesday. There should be some options there for the Sharks, who still need at least two more defenseman and help at both wings. There's always the possibility of a shakeup involving one of their main core pieces, too.
Wilson hinted that there is more to come, and that acquiring Jones could be the just the first domino to fall in an eventful offseason.
“We’ve had a lot of trade discussions, and [there are] a lot of different ways to acquire people,” Wilson said. “This one came to fruition after a lot of conversation.
"We’re not done. There’s more to be done.”
Wilson can check off one very important item on his agenda.