Jim Benning is sticking to his game plan of making the Vancouver Canucks a tougher and meaner team to play against.
The Canucks general manager announced Friday that the team has agreed to terms with free agent centre Blair Jones on a one-year contract.
On Wednesday, Benning acquired tough guy Brandon Prust from Montreal in exchange for Zack Kassian.
A native of Central Butte, Sasketchewan, the 28-year-old played most of last season with the Leigh Valley Phantoms -- the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate -- and recorded 9 goals and 12 assists in 33 games with the Flyers' farm team.
Jones will likely spend most of next season down on the farm with the Utica Comets and essentially replaces Cal O'Reilly as the Comets first line centre. O'Reilly signed a deal with the Buffalo Sabres after his brother, Ryan O'Reilly, was traded from the Colorado Avalanche.
Benning isn't done signing players to play in the minors yet, as Brandon DeFazio, Will Acton, Mike Zalewski and Darren Archibald are all currently unrestricted free agents. Cory Conacher was not tendered a qualifying offer, thus making him a free agent. Conacher signed with SC Bern of the Swiss league.
Jones' has scored at a point per game rate twice in the American Hockey League, including a stint with the AbbotsfordFlames in the 2013/14 season when he potted 17-21-38 in 38 games.
The 4th round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning (102nd overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has 65 career penalty minutes in the National Hockey League with 8 fighting majors, according to HockeyFights.com. Another plausible scernario as to why Benning chose to sign Jones is that the Canucks don't have a penciled in fourth line centre to start the season since Brad Richardson signed with the Arizona Coyotes. With Bo Horvat expected to leapfrog up the depth chart to anchor the second line, Jones could temporarily fill the vacant hole on the line four and give the Canucks an added element of toughness alongside newly-acquired LW Brandon Prust and RW Derek Dorsett, but will create a serious disadvantage in terms of possession statistics.
From Hockey's Future:
Jones has added bulk to his frame since his days of junior hockey and has the strength to be a power forward at the NHL level but he doesn't play a particularly physical game. He has a powerful shot and decent skills but has not been the consistent scorer at the pro level that he was in junior hockey. In fairness to him, he has never played on a playoff-calibre team. Jones has been a consistent, if non-descript forward for the Lightning organization at the AHL level.
Jones fought Dale Weise in the brawl between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks back on January 18th, 2014 that subsequently got then head coach John Tortorella infamously suspended 15 days without pay.