By David Pollak
San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson rolled the dice last summer when he acquired Martin Jones to become San Jose’s starting goalie, then quickly signed him to a three-year, $9-million contract extension.
So far, that appears to be money well spent with Jones getting off to a strong start as Antti Niemi’s replacement between the pipes. Still, Wilson stopped short of labeling Jones one of the NHL’s top bargains for 2015.
“That’s for other people to gauge,” Wilson said. “We’re just pleased to have him.”
Understandably. Twenty-five NHL teams pay their No. 1 goalie more than what Jones earns in his first shot as a starter after two seasons backing up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles. Yet Jones’s stats so far – 12 wins, three shutouts, a 2.35 goals-against average – put him in the NHL’s upper echelon.
Jones made the 350-mile journey from Los Angeles to San Jose by way of Boston. He became a Bruin in the June 26 trade that sent Milan Lucic to the Kings. Four days later, he was a Shark as Wilson sent his 2016 first-round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly to Boston for the 25-year-old goalie with just 34 NHL games on his resume.
That limited NHL experience wasn’t a concern, Wilson said. Jones’s AHL stint with the Manchester Monarchs – a rival of San Jose’s development team then in nearby Worcester – showed he could handle the workload. More insights came from Dave Lowry, the ex-Shark who had coached Jones with the Calgary Hitmen.
“He was number one on our list — his style of play, his size, his age, his competitiveness,” Wilson said. “We thought he was a guy that would fit great for us.”
Jones minimized any adjustments he had to make taking a new role with a new team, crediting coach Pete DeBoer and staff with getting everyone on the same page.
“Defensively it’s a lot of the same stuff,” Jones said. “Here, we like to stretch the game out a little bit more where the Kings were kind of five guys back all the time. I mean, that’s the only adjustment and it doesn’t really affect me that much.”
DeBoer, however, cited a mental adjustment as well.
“Getting the mindset that ‘I’m not just coming in and relieving Quick for a couple games every 10 or 15. I’ve got to be ready to start every night.’ It’s also physically preparing yourself, how you practice,” DeBoer said. “He’s learning that in goal here and I think he’s done a great job.”