Dylan DeMelo excited and relieved to remain a Winnipeg Jet

For the second time in his NHL career, veteran defenceman Dylan DeMelo has chosen staying with the Winnipeg Jets over testing the free agent market. And clearly, he has no regrets about how things have worked out.

DeMelo was a pending unrestricted free agent in October 2020 when he signed a four-year, US$12-million deal with Winnipeg.

And that same scenario has played out less than a week from the start of the 2024 free agency, after the 31-year-old London, Ont., native put ink to paper on another four-year contract — but this time for just under US$20 million in total value.

“Just super happy to be able to extend in Winnipeg,” said DeMelo, who admitted he was relieved to not have to go too deep into the summer without knowing where he’d be playing going into his 12th full professional season, especially with an Aug. 1 due date for baby number two.

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“I’ve obviously been very vocal about staying. Enjoy the community and the group of guys we’ve been building. Just super pleased to get it done and be able to enjoy my Canada Day weekend.”

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DeMelo was considered a priority re-signing for Winnipeg because of the role he has played over the past two seasons, in particular with Josh Morrissey on the Jets’ number one defence pairing. He told Cameron Poitras and Jim Toth on 680 CJOB’s Jets at Noon program that was one of several main considerations that led to staying in Winnipeg.

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“I’m very fortunate to play with really good players. Obviously Josh has been my partner the last couple of years; that was a huge draw for me to re-sign,” said DeMelo, who is coming off a career year for assists (28) and points (31) — as well as a +46 ranking that was second in the NHL only to Florida’s Gustav Forsling, who was a +56.

The former San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators blueliner is the first to admit the onus is on him and Morrissey to keep that partnership intact with how they perform in the future and not what they have done in the past.

Related to recent history, DeMelo says he’s still searching for answers two months after the Jets’ five-game elimination at the hands of Colorado in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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“The ‘what happened’ part is easy. It’s the why. And you know, I got a few theories, not willing to share. If we have a good run, go far and win it all, maybe I’ll spill the details,” DeMelo said with a laugh. “The one thing I think we can do, and I think I can say confidently is our group, we need to continue to push, and push each other to be better.

“At times during the season — this is every team I’ve been on — there’s just that natural human instinct … you’re feeling it during those dog days and you just want to get through the day and punch the clock and go home. And I think the best teams on those days push each other internally and demand more from each other. So that’s one thing internally I’m going to try and do.”

However the Jets attempt to improve by the five or 10 per cent that has been mentioned to get over that first-round hump, they’ll be doing it with Scott Arniel in charge. DeMelo is looking forward to seeing how the team will play under its new head coach.

“He has an open door policy, very good communicator. He’s got some great ideas, just on the philosophy of the game,” DeMelo said. “Obviously, working with the D in an assistant role, I feel he did amazing work for us as a D corps. Individually, I felt like I really grew under his tutelage.”


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