Inside The Box: How do you solve a problem like San Jose Sharks’ Martin Jones?

Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily news bulletin, covering all the latest news and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the NHL content you need in your lives.

How do you solve a problem like Martin Jones if you are the San Jose Sharks? That is the million dollar question we are going to attempt to answer on today’s edition of Inside The Box but, spoiler alert, it isn’t exactly an easy riddle to try and solve.

Ah, the San Jose Sharks. It appears as though the bill is finally due following years of making aggressive trades and dishing out huge contracts in order to chase the coveted prize that is the Stanley Cup, a mission they ultimately failed in despite reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16.

They were a couple of games away from getting back there in 2018-19 but, since then, the Sharks have fallen off a cliff and it does seem as though that it could well be the end of the road for a core that has already begun to be broken up following the departures of franchise cornerstones Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton.

Now, we are actually going to delve into the state of the San Jose Sharks later this week because it isn’t a pretty picture but, for today, we are going to focus on Martin Jones and what exactly the future is for the goaltender. Warning for Sharks fans; it doesn’t look pretty.

There is no doubt that a huge reason behind San Jose failing to make an expanded postseason format in 2019-20 was their struggles between the pipes, ranking 27th in Goals Against Per Game with Martin Jones going 17-21-2 with a 3.00 Goals Against Average and a .896 Save Percentage, while Aaron Dell went 12-15-3 with a 3.01 GAA and a .907 SV%.

Martin Jones (31)

San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (31). Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

What do the San Jose Sharks do with Goaltender Martin Jones?

Jones faced 1,139 shots against last year and he wasn’t helped by a blueline unit that gave up turnovers and giveaways like they were going out of fashion, while he isn’t off to a great start in 2020-21 with a 3.75 Goals Against Average and a .873 Save Percentage. Not great Bob, not great.

In truth, Jones has been in rapid decline since the 2018-19 season, posting 14 bad starts that year followed by 11 in 2019-20 and now three so far this season. His current Adjusted Goals Against Average this season is 4.07, while he’s been below the league average save percentage in each of the last three seasons.

Jones’ dramatic regression and his fall from a Vezina Trophy caliber goalie a few years ago to now being a below-average netminder in the NHL played a huge reason in why the San Jose Sharks acquired veteran Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild for a Fifth-Round pick and a Seventh-Round selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

While Dubnyk isn’t the long-term answer to the Sharks’ prayers, he’s been considerably better than Jones this year, and General Manager Doug Wilson‘s desire to acquire an aging goalie on an expiring contract was a clear indicator that this franchise is rapidly losing faith in their No. 1 starter, who is showing no signs of stopping this alarming and sustained slide.

Yes, Jones made 26 saves in a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, but clutching to one good game is the very definition of putting lipstick on a pig. The reality is that Jones is arguably past the point of no return given that he’s 31-years-old and is only likely to decline further rather than improve.

So, what do the San Jose Sharks do with Martin Jones? Well, he’s also one of many problems given that they have invested huge amounts of money in two veteran defensemen in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, the latter of which looks past his prime and can’t stay healthy but probably can’t be moved because his albatross of a contract, which we looked at here.

San Jose’s roster is flawed in every single area and it is hard to believe that they are pretty much right up against the salary cap when you look at their lineup. Also, the cupboard is pretty bare given that the Sharks have a low-ranked farm system, so there isn’t a lot of help on the way in the immediate future.

Martin Jones (31)

Goaltender Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As a result, Doug Wilson and the front office could look to blow this all up if the Sharks miss the postseason again in 2020-21, which is a significant possibility given that they are currently 6-7-1 on the year, but moving a player in the ilk of Martin Jones isn’t going to be easy.

He has three years remaining after this season on a six-year, $34,500,000 contract with a cap hit of $5,750,000, and he also has a no-move clause in his contract. Granted, San Jose could persuade Jones to waive that no-move clause in order to facilitate a trade, but the veteran’s value is at an all-time low right now.

As a result, they would get very little back for him in terms of prospects and draft capital, while they would more than likely have to retain some salary and perhaps even put a First or a Second-Round pick in the deal in order to persuade a team to take Jones on. The Sharks could leave Jones unprotected in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft if they were able to get that no-move clause waived but, again, they would have to give the Seattle Kraken a considerable sweetener in order to take Jones.

What about a buyout? Again, it is possible but the longer the Sharks wait the less they will save in the long-run. For instance, they can’t buy Jones out until June. 15, 2021 at which point they would only save a combined total of $5 million, with the total buyout cost rising to $10 million over six seasons, translating to an annual cost of $1,666,667, while the Sharks would still take a cap hit in each of the six seasons, which is mapped out here. So, basically, it probably isn’t worth it for this organization to go through that process given all the other cap headaches they have to contend with.

Overall, the San Jose Sharks are in a pretty dire state and they have a lot of problems to contend with over the next few years, with the future of their broken goaltender Martin Jones chief among them. He’s likely to have a good game here and there but he is more down than up and it is likely that the Sharks will cut bait eventually, but his albatross of a contract will make that a much more complicated process and his declining play won’t make it any easier, even if they do decide to move on and head in a new direction eventually.

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