With contract signed, Seth Jones' sights now set squarely on NHL

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 5:06pm

The standard NHL player contract that Seth Jones signed Wednesday consisted of 11 pages and covered all the basics.

It was the four-page addendum, which was not present at the public ceremony, that made it clear the Nashville Predators think their first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2013 draft is anything but a standard prospect.

Those sheets included the financial terms, which in Jones’ case include performance incentives for virtually every measurable imaginable. They were the ones that raised the 18-year-old defenseman’s salary cap value to $3.225 million, well above his annual salary of $925,000 for the first three seasons of his professional career.

Already, the Predators feel he is well worth it.

“Talking to Seth and his representatives, we both have the same goal in mind: To give Seth every opportunity to play with the Predators as soon as training camp,” general manager David Poile said. “We’re going to put him in a position to succeed and the contract was just one of the steps to solidify our words and to our commitment.

“It’s the right thing to do for both sides.”

As a means of comparison, the deal first overall pick, center Nathan MacKinnon, signed with the Colorado Avalanche carried a cap number of $3.725 million.

Perhaps more telling, Jones’ cap hit is higher than that of veteran Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein ($2.9 million) and well beyond that of Ryan Ellis, the last defenseman the Predators drafted in the first round (11th overall in 2009). Ellis’ cap number in the final year of his entry-level contract is $1.44 million.

“I think now [Jones] is at peace as to what he needs to do in terms of his preparation in the summer,” Poile sad. “I know he’s going to do everything he can on and off the ice to get there.”

If he does not make the NHL roster, the league’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League requires that — because of his age — Jones returns to his junior club, the Portland Winterhawks. In that case, the contract would be deferred.

After this season, Jones will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League or any other minor professional league. In that case, his salary would be $70,000.

Neither of those scenarios seem likely at present.

Jones’ mindset was clear during the signing ceremony in that he included the term “professional athlete” in his answer to virtually every question. Plus, Poile and his staff already have made moves in the wake of the draft, which took place fewer than two weeks ago, to help make room on the Nashville roster for the player they considered the best prospect available this year.

“I think as a professional athlete you always have to be focused and be thinking about your goals and what you have to accomplish to reach your goals,” Jones said. “At the same time I think you definitely need to kind of sit back and really see the big picture here of what’s happening. I’m still trying to process it myself.

“I just signed with an NHL team. My entire life I wanted to be an NHL player. This is another step to really try to prove to myself that I can play in the NHL.”