That’s par for the course though when you travel through life standing 6-foot-4, people will notice you. Sporting an all black Toronto Blue Jays hat – again, maybe trying to fly below the radar and avoid some grief from MayorsManor for his lid – the Vancouver native was all smiles and looked to be itching for some ice time.
Originally signed by GM Dean Lombardi as an unrestricted free agent in 2008, Jones turned pro back in in 2010. Splitting starts with other Monarchs goalies for two seasons eventually led to being given the ball last year as the team’s number one netminder.
Appearing in 56 games for the Kings’ AHL affiliate, he posted a 27-25-4 record with a 2.53 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and five shutouts.
Then, there was a contract issue this summer. According to our sources, Jones wanted a one-year deal, while the Kings were looking to luck him up for the next two seasons.
Last week Lombardi told MayorsManor he expected Jones to arrive this week and he was confident the two sides could strike an agreement before the team’s main training camp opens on Wednesday.
As we tweeted last night during the game, Jones shared similar feelings on Monday.
“I think we have something pretty much done,” he said. “I just have to work out the details and I think it’s going to get done [on Tuesday]… I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t expecting to sign.”
Sure enough, a new two-year contract was announced by the team this morning.
Now, Jones can turn his attention to camp, where as many as four goaltenders will compete for the two spots available in Manchester this season. Along with Jones, Lombardi and his staff will be looking at JF Berube and Matthias Niederberger (both under contract) – plus Mathieu Garon (invited to camp on a tryout).
“Competition is always good,” Jones remarked. “It’s going to bring the best out of you. Obviously I want to be at least the number one guy in Manch and it’s going to push me to play my best and keep working harder. There’s really only one thing I can control and that’s what I do, how I play and how I perform. I can see it’s a lot of guys and not as many spots, so you definitely want to bring your best every day. But nothing really changes for me, I’m going to approach each day the same way.”
Despite the distraction of contract talks throughout the summer and a somewhat erratic season last year, Jones didn’t alter his approach to training very much, compared to previous summers.
“Nothing drastic,” he explained. “I do feel like I had a really good summer training on and off the ice. You know, I think even in the times when the wins weren’t coming as easily last year, I was happy with the way I was playing a lot of the times and still working hard. Obviously it was a tough stretch there for a little while but I was definitely happy with the way I was playing and competing in a lot of those games.”
In addition to his focus and preparation, Jones still has at least one other thing on his mind.
“I want to be ready to play in the NHL and that’s doing everything, all the little things on and off the ice, that are going to get me to that next level. That’s probably the biggest thing for me, to be prepared to play in the NHL because that’s where I want to be for sure.”
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