Zac Jones was the 66th overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft. He’s been one of the more touted prospects in the Rangers organization, especially on the blue line. He’s been on the edge of the roster for far too long, and we recently saw him get an extended shot in the team on the third pairing with Adam Fox’s injury. It must be time to move on from the Richmond, Virginia native.
Of the pairings that have played 100 minutes or more each, the worst one defensively is by far Jones and Braden Schneider. According to Natural Stat Trick, the pairing had an expected goals against of 3.38 for every 60 minutes they played together. To put this into perspective, Schneider and Erik Gustafsson have an xGA/60 of 2.43 according to the same model. Jones didn’t work with Schneider.
If you want to look at the counting stats, he had three assists and is a -5. Jones hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations some Rangers fans placed on him before the season started. He’s not been able to provide competition, and it’s not a good look for the organization to have a seventh defenseman that you cannot reliably put in the lineup. Having a set six is great, but a seventh that can come in and not be a turnstile is important.
For the player, sitting in the press box is not going to help him develop. He needs to be playing in the NHL and getting ice time. He’s not waiver-exempt anymore, so he would need to be offered to every team in the NHL before he can be assigned to AHL Hartford. Someone would claim him, right? Surely, one of the bottom feeders in the league would like an extra young defenseman on waivers.
It means that the only reasonable solution is a trade. Find him a home in a deal that sees a roster piece come back that will actually help the Rangers contend for the Stanley Cup this season. If that’s a winger, or a replacement seventh defenseman who is better now is not my job to work out. Chris Drury gets paid a lot of money to do that job. But we’ve seen that it’s clearly time for a change with this kid. Maybe he can rescue his career somewhere else.