Ryan Jones wondered if he punched his ticket out of Edmonton by not signing a new ticket with the Oilers.
General manager Steve Tambellini made his camp a contract extension offer late Sunday and they turned it down, wondering if that might be his last official act as Oilers property.
“It was in the back of my mind,” said Jones, who thought the Oilers might ship him at the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing when he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. “It’s hard to read into things, but the thought was there.
“Being an unrestricted free agent on a team that’s looking to move forward and looking for a core group of guys, you’re always vulnerable to being traded or moved.”
But the trade deadline came and went and Jones didn’t move, so rather than a finish line, Edmonton’s offer was more of a starting point. There is still time for the two parties to get something done.
“It was something I talked over with my agent and we decided to carry on conversations with the team and see where it goes,” Jones said of turning down the offer. “You never start out and sign something right away. The initial offer is usually high on the players side and low on theirs, so you try and find a happy medium.”
Jones has 13 goals, all of them even strength, mostly from the third and fourth lines, while averaging 12 minutes a night. He can also kill penalties and takes the body, which makes him a valuable asset if you can get him at the right price.
He can walk away in the summer if he wants to, but like a lot of the players here, likes the thought of being an Oiler.
“The future is bright here,” he said. “They have young talent, good leadership and a great coaching staff. The owner is second to none, a guy who’s not afraid to show how proud he is of the team and the city.
“There’s no limit to where this team can go, it’s just a matter of finding the guys they want to do it with.”
Edmonton’s been in a similar spot before, when they dismissed Curtis Glencross, who had nine goals in 26 games after joining Edmonton, as an afterthought while trying to reel in a big free agent fish Marian Hossa for Daryl Katz.
They’ve regretted it ever since.
“It’s business,” said Jones, who knows he might not get his number here. “I’ve been traded already, I’ve been picked up on waivers. So very early in my professional career I learned that there’s a business side to hockey. Sometimes it sucks, but it’s a part of it.”
From being plucked off the waiver wire last year to being able to field contract offers, he’s certainly upped his stock.
“Everybody seems totally surprised that I am where I am,” he said. “But over 50 games last year I had eight goals, so if you expand that out over 82 games and I’m pretty close to where I am now.
“The year before 46 games, seven goals, expand that out and I’m not for from where I’m at now.
“It’s not a huge surprise, it’s just happened over a longer period of time. I’ve been able to stay in the lineup.”