The Carolina Hurricanes further bolstered their vaunted defensive depth by signing 26-year-old blueliner Caleb Jones on Thursday.
Initial reports indicate that Jones will not exactly break the bank for the cash-strapped Canes, who will pay him just over the league minimum over one season.
Jones, a 6 ‘1 left-handed shot, played a peripheral role for three seasons in Edmonton before being afforded more responsibility on a Chicago Blackhawks team that was one of the league’s worst throughout his time there.
Over two seasons with the Hawks, who still employ his older brother and fellow defenseman, Seth, Jones scored 9 goals and 31 points in 124 games. Last season, he averaged over 19 minutes of ice time while finishing third on the team in blocks (118).
Despite being a responsible defender and scoring 16 points over 72 games in 2022-2023, Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson decided not to qualify Jones, who became an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He may live to regret that, as Carolina’s propensity for finding diamonds in the rough is almost as notorious as their relentless puck possession.
Jones will compete with Jalen Chatfield, Dylan Coghlan, and a returning Tony Deangelo for the sixth and seventh spots on coach Rod Brind’Amours’s blueline. Those are the only places not occupied by the Hurricanes’ set-in-stone top four (Slavin, Burns, Pesce, and Skjei) or big-ticket free-agent signing Dmitry Orlov.
With so much depth and so few roster spots, it could reasonably be possible that Carolina GM Don Waddell would listen to trade offers for the pending-UFA duo of Pesce and Skjei; both cost upwards of $4 million against the cap and will likely walk for nothing this offseason.