Jets Have Options for Morrissey’s Partner on the Blue Line

The Winnipeg Jets’ defence corps took a big hit last season after losing key names such as Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, and Ben Chariot. With these losses, Josh Morrissey has become the clear number one defenseman for the Jets.

Morrissey has a great contract with the Jets, at $6.25 million per year, that extends through the 2027-28 season. A big deal for the blueliner means he needs to be able to produce like a number one defensemen.

The 13th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft took a big step for the Jets in the 2018-19 season, putting up 31 points. Although he put up the same number of points in 2019-20, Morrissey was not the same as he was in the previous year. Little mistakes and lack of defensive play led him to having an off season.

Josh Morrissey Winnipeg Jets
Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Head coach Paul Maurice needs to pair Morrisey with a defenseman that makes his job easier.Being the number one blueliner is tough, but a great partner can take some of the burden off of his shoulders. He can choose to focus on his defensive play this year or become more of a force offensively and put up more points. So who is the perfect guy to play with Morrissey?

Neal Pionk

After acquiring Pionk in the Trouba trade last season, he has been a great addition to the Jets’ blue line. He put up 45 points for the team last season, including 25 of those on the power play.

Pionk is the best offensive defenseman on the team. He quarterbacks the team’s number one power play, and he does it very well. During five-on-five action, he provides the Jets with many scoring chances and is someone they can count on throughout the game.

Neal Pionk Winnipeg Jets
Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Pionk generates plenty of shots to the net, with a total of 177 last season, putting him in the top 10 for all defensemen in the NHL. With him being a force on offence, he can take away some of the pressure on Morrissey and let him focus on his defensive play.

Dylan DeMelo

The Jets acquired DeMelo last season at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators for a third-round pick in the 2020 Entry Draft. This ended up being a steal for them, as he recently signed a four-year contract worth an average of $3 million per season.

DeMelo was a force for the Jets for the short time he played there last season and will be looking at a larger role on the team this year. He is a great defensive defenseman who has high hockey IQ. He will never be great on offence, but he does not need to be.

DeMelo does the little things right. He is what every coach is looking for in a stay-at-home defenseman. When watching the Jets, you may not even notice him on the ice. This is a good thing because it shows that he’s not making very many mistakes.

Dylan DeMelo Winnipeg Jets
Dylan DeMelo, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Depending on if Morrissey would like to become more offensive or defensive this season, DeMelo would be the perfect fit. No one is expecting him to put up points, and this could cause Morrissey to use him as his safety blanket if he decides to join the rush on offence.

Travis Hamonic

This one is a very interesting decision that the Jets’ front office must choose to make before Hamonic gets picked up in free agency by another club. The St. Malo, Manitoba-native, should be someone that they look to sign. He’s a veteran who has played 10 seasons in the league so far. Most of those came with the New York Islanders, and he previously played for the Calgary Flames.

Travis Hamonic Calgary Flames
Travis Hamonic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Signing Hamonic can be a high reward play for the Jets. After only posting one season with over 30 points in his career, it is safe to say that he has solidified himself as a defensive defenseman. Signing him would give the Jets the opportunity to potentially slot him beside Morrissey to round out the top two pairings.

Who Fits Best With Morrissey?

These three options are all very suitable to be on the top pair with Morrissey. But one name that stands out above the rest is DeMelo. Morrissey needs to become more of an offensive defenseman, and DeMelo is the best option to allow him to do that. A guy like Pionk, for example, does not allow him to become a defenseman who can join the rush.

Becoming a top-pair defenseman is something that DeMelo has worked hard to deserve. His new contract reflects his play on the ice, and his minutes will be increased this season, especially if they decide to slot him next to Morrissey.

We will see what the Jets have up their sleeve when it comes to the defence corps this year. But there’s no doubt it will be an improvement from last season with DeMelo joining them full time.

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