Dylan DeMelo doesn’t have to go far to join his new team.
He just has to walk across the hall.
DeMelo, a 26-year-old defenseman, was traded by the Ottawa Senators to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. The Jets just happen to be playing the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was intentionally shopping for a blueliner, six days before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
“The hard part about trying to acquire a defenseman is someone has to be willing to give him up,” Cheveldayoff told reporters. “Teams certainly aren’t that welcome to give up a defenseman during the year. The market starts to loosen as you get closer to a deadline.”
Cheveldayoff gave up a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to get DeMelo, who has 10 assists in 49 games with the Senators this season.
DeMelo was originally drafted in the sixth round (179th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in 2011. He was traded to Ottawa in September of 2018 along with Chris Tierney, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers and conditional draft picks for two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
That’s when he grabbed Cheveldayoff’s attention.
“He went to a team that you knew he was going to get an increased role. He’s someone that you watch from a distance to see how he’s going to handle that role,” Cheveldayoff said. “We’ve really liked his progression over the course of time to what he’s become, his growth as a player and his development, over those years.”
Cheveldayoff said the Jets needed a right-shot, right-side defender, and DeMelo filled the bill.
“That did factor into our equation as well,” he said. “As with anything here, we’ve talked about it, it’s about a fit. We felt this is the fit we wanted to jump on.”
DeMelo is in the final season of a two-year, $1.8 million contract and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Following the trade, he said he likes the potential he sees in the Jets, who trounced the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 at home on Wednesday.
He tweeted: “I’m very excited to join NHLJets. Looking forward to the playoff push and excited to meet my new teammates and to play in front of the great fans of Winnipeg!”
He said the Winnipeg barn is a tough place to play for road teams.
“It’s loud, it’s rowdy, the fans are very passionate,” the London, Ontario, native said. “I think the team itself plays hard and it plays fast. Every time I play Winnipeg, it’s always a team that I’ve been impressed with.
“Top to bottom, it’s a very strong team, very well coached.”
The Senators didn’t skip a beat without DeMelo in the lineup. They are a good bet to miss the 2019-20 Stanley Cup playoffs but they’re enjoying a little surge at 3-1-0 in their last four games.
They won their second consecutive Tuesday, beating the Buffalo Sabres 7-4 with four goals in a 3:29 span in the first period.
“We’re certainly not going to be as good without (DeMelo),” Senators coach D.J. Smith said. “He’s a very smart, underrated player. I think that’s why Winnipeg goes and picks him up. He’s going to help them. He’s calm under pressure.”
–Field Level Media