The Winnipeg Jets took a huge step toward solidifying their much-maligned blue line Wednesday morning, re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Dylan DeMelo to a four-year contract with an average annual value of $3 million.
DeMelo Makes Jets’ D-Corp Significantly Stronger
Adding DeMelo is a huge step toward ensuring goaltender Connor Hellebuyck won’t have to singlehandedly will his team to the playoffs again. The cerebral defenseman will certainly be a fixture on their top-four going forward.
The Jets gave up far too many high-danger scoring chances last season, as they had to rely on waiver wire pickups and fringe blue-liners for most of 2019-20 after losing Ben Chiarot, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba in the offseason, then losing Dustin Byfuglien on the opening day of training camp.
The Jets acquired DeMelo from the Ottawa Senators last February, and he quickly showed his intelligence and awareness, jumping up to the top pairing alongside Josh Morrissey after just a few contests. He played 10 games for the Jets between the trade and the COVID-19 season pause, and they flourished down the stretch, going 6-3-1 with the right-hander in the lineup.
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DeMelo, 27, was originally selected by the San Jose Sharks in the 6th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In 267-career games between the Sharks, Senators, and Jets, he has recorded seven goals and 57 assists for 64 points and has posted consistently excellent possession metrics.
He was expected to attract a number of suitors on the open market.
Jets Still Have Cap Space to Do Much More
While re-signing DeMelo is a big item off his to-do list, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff still has a lot more to do, most notably signing another defenseman and adding a second-line centre. The Jets still need short-term help in the latter regard, despite drafting who they hope will be a franchise second-line centre in Cole Perfetti with the 10th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft Tuesday.
Cheveldayoff’s still got plenty of cap space: even after taking DeMelo’s team-friendly deal into account, he still has a touch over $11 million at his disposal. He recently promised he’d be active in both free agency and the trade markets, so look for him to be just that in the coming days.