June 30, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Jones Is Ready To Be Sharks’ No.1 Goalie

SAN JOSE — Over the last five days, the rights to goalie Martin Jones have zigzagged across the country from Los Angeles to Boston to San Jose. Now that he’s found a home in the South Bay, Jones is preparing to reach his next destination as the No.1 goalie for the San Jose Sharks.

After a relatively-quiet draft, Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson made some noise on Tuesday, trading the team’s 2016 first-round pick and unsigned prospect Sean Kuraly to the Boston Bruins for Jones, who’s served as Jonathan Quick’s backup with the Los Angeles Kings for the last two seasons.

With an impressive 1.99 goals-against average and an equally-respectable .923 save percentage in 34 career games, Jones has been a prime target on the goalie market this summer. The Bruins grabbed him in the Milan Lucic trade with the Kings on Friday and then turned the acquisition into a first-round draft pick by shipping him off to San Jose four days later, where he’s expected to resign and replace Antti Niemi as the team’s No. 1 goalie.

“It’s neat,” Jones said, in reference to the pair of trades that he’s been involved with over the last five days. “I’ve never been traded.”

The Sharks were willing to part ways with their 2016 first-round pick because they see the 25-year-old netminder as a potential franchise goalie.

“We obviously feel very strongly about him,” Wilson said. “If you see something that you really want, we have no problem playing full value going out and getting it. That’s what we did.”

Wilson said Jones is no less a gamble than a typical first-round draft pick.

“He’s a guy that we see, we know a lot about him. His style, his size; he’s a big goalies, he’s highly competitive,” Wilson said. “We probably have more information on a player like this than you do a guy that you’d be drafting.”

The Sharks opened the door for Jones’ acquisition when they traded Niemi’s negotiating rights to the Dallas Stars on Saturday for a 2015 seventh-round pick.

After being stuck behind Quick in Los Angeles for two years, Jones will receive an opportunity to compete for the Sharks No.1 goalie job in training camp against Alex Stalock, who’s served as Niemi’s backup over the last two seasons, and Troy Grosenick, the top netminder in the team’s farm system.

Jones started just 11 games for the Kings last season, 18 during the 2013-14 campaign, and had he remained in Boston, he would have been caught behind the Bruins’ starter Tuukka Rask.
While Jones is sad to leave the squad that he won a Stanley Cup with, he’s looking forward to receiving more responsibility with the Sharks.

“Ultimately, that’s the goal, to go somewhere and play,” he said, adding later: “I think I’m ready to definitely take that step.”

While Jones is certainly the frontrunner to replace Niemi, Wilson said the price that the Sharks paid to acquire him isn’t a guarantee that he’ll be the starting goalie when the 2015-16 season kicks off on Oct. 7 against his former squad in Los Angeles.

The Sharks are looking to build a meritocracy under new head coach Peter DeBoer.

“The conversation takes place on the ice,” Wilson said.

Jones agreed: “I’m going to go into camp and try to earn every start I can get.”

As a former-member of the Kings, Jones has been on the Sharks’ radar for a quite awhile, according to Wilson. But the Kings wanted to send the hot commodity to the Eastern Conference, so he couldn’t haunt them as a part of a rival team after his departure.

After Jones landed in Boston on Friday, Wilson went to work, negotiating with Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney to bring him to San Jose.

“We put a lot of time and energy into it at the draft,” Wilson said. “To me, you identify the parts you really want and aggressively go after them and that’s what we did.”

The value of the first-round pick that Wilson traded to the Bruins could change dramatically depending on how the Sharks perform during the 2015-16 campaign. The pick will be a mid-to-late-first rounder if the Sharks return to the playoffs, otherwise it could be another top-ten pick.

Wilson believes the pick will end up being the former, which made it easier to trade.

“We know we have a good hockey team,” Wilson said. “We’ve had long talks with our coaching staff that’s here and all of our players — they’re really looking forward to the bounce back.”

While Jones will become a restricted free agent on Wednesday, both the Sharks and the young netminder are confident that a deal will be reached.

“I’d be happy to take that next step and get that done and out of the way, and start focusing on next season,” Jones said.

Sharks resign Dillon to five-year contract: Brenden Dillon signed a five-year, $16.35 million contract with the Sharks on Tuesday, avoiding restricted free agency this summer.

Dillon, who was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars for Jason Demers last November, recorded 10 points in 80 games last season, seeing an average of 19:13 ice time per contest.

The 25-year-old defenseman, who signed with the Stars as an undrafted free agent in 2011, is eager to be a cornerstone of the Sharks blue line for years to come.

“I’m not comfortable with where I’m at,” Dillon said. “I’m always trying to get better.”

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