Jets make deal for D-man

Acquire DeMelo from Senators for third-round pick

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Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has thrown his scrappy group a much-needed bone, landing hard-nosed defenceman Dylan DeMelo to bolster a battered blue line. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/02/2020 (914 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has thrown his scrappy group a much-needed bone, landing hard-nosed defenceman Dylan DeMelo to bolster a battered blue line. 

DeMelo, 26, was obtained Tuesday afternoon from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft. He’s a player the Jets have eyed for some time, from his days with the San Jose Sharks to his move to the nation’s capital as part of the Erik Karlsson blockbuster trade in 2018. 

“We’ve really liked his progression over the course of time to what he’s become, in terms of his growth as a player and his development over those years,” Cheveldayoff said in a conference call.

Dylan DeMelo was obtained Tuesday afternoon from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft. (Jeffrey T. Barnes / Associated Press files)

Stay tuned, folks, because there may be more to come before Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Cheveldayoff publicly repeated the pledge he’s made to his players, who head into action Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings with a 30-25-5 record, three points out of a Western Conference playoff spot with 22 regular-season games left. 

“I’ve talked to the guys in the past and told them I’ll do everything I can to keep on pushing here, and it’s a good group. They have fought hard, they have fought together, and the player we’re bringing in here will fit very well into that dressing room, too, which is hugely important,” said Cheveldayoff.

“What we wanted to do was focus on the immediate opportunities in front of us, given how hard these guys have fought and where things are at right now. I’m proud of this group and hopefully this will continue to help push them and keep them in the fight. We’ll see what the next six days bring.”

In Dylan DeMelo (right), Winnipeg gets a 26-year-old right-shooting defenceman who plays a defensively responsible game. (Jonathan Hayward / Canadian Press files)

Winnipeg lost defencemen Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot last summer, then added Dustin Byfuglien to that list just as training camp was set to begin. They’ve also dealt with numerous injuries this season, with waiver-wire pickups Luca Sbisa and Carl Dahlstrom currently nursing hurts.

The Jets have plenty of financial flexibility to work with right now, but Cheveldayoff has to carefully balance the present with the future in terms of draft picks and assets, especially with Winnipeg no lock to even make the post-season for a third straight spring. 

“I do have cap room, from that standpoint. We’re going to be open to different things. Maybe there’s hockey deals out there that don’t just involve rental players and stuff. We’ll see how that all plays out. It’s hard to predict right now, and things change daily,” said Cheveldayoff. “Then there’s also the potential of looking at a forward as well. But we do have to be mindful of the asset prices and there is an opportunity cost, whether it’s picks or it’s prospects that you do trade away.”

Indeed, the Jets are also hurting up front with injuries to forwards Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry (both out week-to-week) and Bryan Little, who played just seven games this year and is out for the season.

In DeMelo, Winnipeg gets a 26-year-old right-shooting defenceman who plays a defensively responsible game. The 6’0, 191 pound native of London, Ont. has seven goals, 57 assists and 125 penalty minutes in 259 career NHL games split between San Jose and Ottawa. His advanced numbers are impressive, suggesting DeMelo was a very good player on a very bad Senators team this season, both in driving possession when he’s on the ice and suppressing chances against.

“I think I’m just a solid, reliable defenceman. I’m a guy that can log minutes against top lines. The last two years in Ottawa I’ve been able to get an opportunity to showcase that on a more consistent basis. When I play solid in my own zone, play steady, the offence will come from me from the back end. And I’m just looking forward to being a piece of this puzzle here in Winnipeg,” DeMelo said Tuesday in a conference call. 

He is a pending unrestricted free agent making $900,000 this season, which both he and Cheveldayoff admitted could lead to a potential extension in the summer.

“For me I just want to be a part of this team in the last 20 games or so and do what I can to help this team make the playoffs. I think both sides will see how the fit is and go from there. I think it’s a great team with a bright future that I could definitely see myself being a part of,” said DeMelo, who played minor hockey against Jets centre Mark Scheifele in Ontario and also knows Nathan Beaulieu well. 

DeMelo will likely slot into Winnipeg’s top four right away, perhaps with Josh Morrissey on the top pair, or Dmitry Kulikov on the second pair. He’ll make his debut on Thursday night in Ottawa, of all places, when the Jets kick off a four-game road trip against the Senators.

“Winnipeg’s always a tough building to come into when you’re a road team. It’s loud, it’s rowdy, the fans are very passionate and I think the team itself plays hard and plays fast. Every time I’ve played Winnipeg it’s always a team I’ve been impressed with. To be a part of a team like that, top to bottom it’s a really strong team, very well-coached and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go ahead with this playoff push, hopefully get in and make some noise,” he said. 

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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