Veteran Martin Jones happily settling into new role in Marlies' net

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Martin Jones just wants to win and be a good teammate.

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So, no, it’s not eating at the veteran goaltender that he has started the 2023-24 season in the American Hockey League. 

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When the 33-year-old Jones helped the Toronto Marlies beat the Utica Comets last Sunday, it marked his first game in the minors since 2013-14, when he played in 22 games with the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate at the time.

Between his AHL appearances, Jones played in more than 400 games in the National Hockey League for Los Angeles, San Jose, Philadelphia and Seattle before signing a one-year, $875,000 US contract with the Leafs in August. 

Jones knew what he was getting into with Toronto, which had Ilya Samsonov in the No. 1 position and Joseph Woll ready for a full-time backup job.

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“I was fully aware of the situation,” Jones said after the Marlies practised on Friday. “I wanted to go in and push as hard as I could at camp, but I was aware of the situation and knew (that being sent to the Marlies) was the likely possibility.

“For me, it doesn’t matter where I am. We’re competitors and we want to win and we want to play well and the rest of that stuff takes care of itself. My focus is playing well here and being the best goalie I can be for the Marlies.”

That outlook, not surprisingly, has not been lost on Marlies coach John Gruden.

“He’s a pro, and there’s a reason why he is still playing,” Gruden said. “For him to come down and be a good teammate and be excited about it is great for us. He has the locker room’s respect.”

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Living in one city, whether it was in the NHL or AHL, was key for Jones in his decision to sign with Toronto. That the Leafs and Marlies play down the road from each other, an inexpensive Uber ride between rinks, was crucial.

He and his wife, Alex, have a son who is nearly one year old and the couple had no interest in being uprooted during the hockey season.

“That was a huge factor for sure,” Jones said. “It’s a great setup here.”

Jones acknowledged some tense moments when he was put on waivers a few weeks ago, hoping he would not be claimed by another NHL team.
“The waiver situation was a little stressful, not knowing where I was going to end up,” Jones said. “There is a lot more to it than just the hockey and we are happy to be a little more settled.”

Jones won 27 games for the Kraken last season, and under different circumstances, could have been in the NHL now. If Samsonov or Woll gets injured or struggles, Jones will be ready.

“All I can do is be prepared when, or if, I do get the chance to get called up and try to make the most of my opportunity,” Jones said. “This is a pretty world-class American League organization, so the transition has been really easy. It’s a great group of guys.”

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