It was a good 24-hours for the Winnipeg Jets.
It started Tuesday with the Jets drafting Cole Perfetti with the 10th overall pick,
and it ended with the signing of Dylan DeMelo to a four-year, $12 million contract Wednesday.
DeMelo was acquired by the Jets in February from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick. DeMelo would have been an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins Friday afternoon.
But instead, with the signing of DeMelo, the Jets are one step closer to repairing a blue line that had its issues last season.
"When I got traded, I was given an amazing role and great responsibility of playing top-4 minutes, a PK role and against other teams’ top lines. It was something that I did in Ottawa and something that I feel I’m capable of doing. Obviously, there was a need on the right-hand side, they picked me up and I thought I fit in well with the guys, with the system, with the organization as a whole,” DeMelo said.
What makes DeMelo the perfect option for the Jets, and the Jets a perfect option for DeMelo is the fact that DeMelo can excel in a role as a stay-at-home defenseman.
While Josh Morrisey, Neal Pionk and eventually Ville Heinola bring more offensive flavor by pushing the puck up ice and chipping in offensively from the blue line, DeMelo can be that hammer on the blue line.
"I’ve always been the kind of guy that does all the small things right. Sometimes that translates to points, sometimes it doesn’t. But I feel like every team I’ve been on; I think internally everybody’s appreciated how I play and how I handle myself on and off the ice,” DeMelo said.
“People love points. They love statistics. Everybody loves the guy that scores and puts up the points. However, not every player can do that. It really is a team sport, hockey, and there’s so many small things in a game that help you win that don’t show up in goals, assists and points but they show up on the wins-and-loss record.”
There’s a good chance the Jets begin the season with DeMelo on the top defensive pairing. If that’s the case, then he’ll likely be alongside Josh Morrisey.
During the regular season, DeMelo and Morrisey spent 68:18 of five-on-five ice time together across six games. The two seemed to get more comfortable with each other in the playoffs, skating together in 54:51 of five-on-five ice time.
In that span the Jets held the advantage in:
Shot attempts: 51-37
Shots on goal: 29-23
Scoring chances for: 23-17
High-danger scoring chances for: 6-4
"J-Mo (Morrisey) is an excellent player. He makes my job really easy because he takes care of that left side and he's a solid player on all fronts," said DeMelo. "I think we can take our game to another level. I think we can be even more so dominant. That's the expectation I have for him and I if we were to be back together again."
DeMelo certainly could have took full advantage of the opportunity he earned as free agent, electing to test the market in free agency on Friday. But with how well he felt things went in Winnipeg, four-years at $3M annually was good enough for him to sign on the dotted line.
While money is always a key factor, the situation around him in Winnipeg was equally important.
"This is life-changing money for me and my family, but it was always fit and stability more so than the money. With the pandemic, everybody has been taking a hit. I'm very fortunate to sign this contract during these times."
With the DeMelo family growing by one in January, DeMelo is excited to call Winnipeg home for the foreseeable future.
"I’ve been looking for a home, I’ve been looking for stability. I’ve been with three teams in three or four years here,” he said. “Not just for me, but for my wife, my family. We’re expecting our first child in January we’re looking to plant some roots. I’ve heard Winnipeg is an amazing place to raise a family and we’re looking forward to that."
Everyone knows how cold it is in Winnipeg. But growing up in Canada and eventually playing in Ottawa, the cold won’t be an issue. DeMelo is looking forward to the beautiful summers, fall and spring that Winnipeg has to offer.
“Obviously, it’s cold, as everybody says. But I’m from Canada and I played in Ottawa, so I know what cold’s all about. But I heard the summers and the fall and the spring time are beautiful here,” DeMelo said.
Between the speed and skill, playing hard and playing fast, DeMelo loves the style of play the Jets play on a nightly basis.
He hopes that one day soon he can spend some of those beautiful Winnipeg summers with the Stanley Cup.
“I love the style of play that the team plays with here in Winnipeg. We play fast, we play hard. We’ve got some guys up front that can really make some high-end plays,” DeMelo said.
“We have high-end skill and I’m really happy to be a part of it, and the coaching staff from top to bottom are awesome people, and just really looking forward to working with them and getting better and hopefully go on a long run and win a Cup here in Winnipeg.”