Dylan DeMelo, Jets agree to 4-year, $19.6 million contract extension

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo has agreed to a four-year, $19.6 million contract extension, the team announced Tuesday. The average annual value of the deal is $4.9 million. The Athletic’s Chris Johnston was the first to report the news.

DeMelo is coming off back-to-back career seasons playing on the top pair with Josh Morrissey. It’s a role he shone in almost immediately upon being acquired from Ottawa in 2020 for a third-round draft pick, although it wasn’t until Rick Bowness’ arrival two seasons ago that Morrissey’s offense took off and DeMelo’s soared with it.

DeMelo’s biggest strength is his vision, particularly following puck retrievals; his first pass in his own zone tends to come after fast, safe reads of the opposing forecheck. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, DeMelo is not a bruiser or a punishing physical force but maintains a positive defensive impact. He can be beat by the game’s biggest forwards in front but he’s positionally sound and boxes out well.

Strengths like “positionally sound” and “good five-foot passes” are not the stuff of headlines, but DeMelo earned second-place votes for “most underrated teammate” in The Athletic’s survey of Jets players earlier this season.

“I just think that he’s very easy to play with. He makes players around him better,” said Morrissey.

At 31 years old, there’s no guarantee that DeMelo will continue to provide first-pairing caliber support for the duration of his contract. Analytics site Hockey Viz shows a slight step back in his overall impact in 2023-24, despite DeMelo’s three goals and 28 assists for 31 points on the season. The Athletic’s player cards show a defenseman who helps at both ends of the ice and whose impact is to reduce expected goals against. Winnipeg outscored its opponents 81-44 with DeMelo on the ice at five-on-five this season — the best results on the team. He also led the Jets in blocked shots and shorthanded ice time per game.

Perhaps most importantly for a team with a challenging offseason ahead, the veteran right-handed defenseman chose Winnipeg. His previous four-year, $3 million AAV signaled a commitment to the city and the organization; this time, DeMelo’s family has even more on its plate.

“I guess it’s not public to everybody, but we are expecting another (child) in August,” DeMelo said in May. “Going from a 2-1 zone to a man-on-man is going to be interesting. We have really enjoyed our time here, my wife and I, and our son.”

DeMelo also spoke about his comfort with his teammates and shared optimism despite the Jets’ first-round loss to Colorado.

“I know that I definitely am comfortable here. I have played my best hockey here and I really think my best hockey is still ahead of me,” he said. “I have really loved my time here, and the guys in this room are guys that I want to play with and win with.”

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(Photo: Jonathan Kozub / NHLI via Getty Images)

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