The wheeling and dealing has started for Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.
The Senators traded defenceman Dylan DeMelo to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft Tuesday afternoon and he won’t have to wait long to see his former teammates. DeMelo is expected to suit up in his first game against his former team Thursday night when they face off at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The decision to deal DeMelo in exchange for a pick in the third-round gives the Senators seven picks in the first three rounds of what’s considered a strong draft. The club now has two first-rounders at the NHL’s draft in June, three picks in the second round and two in the third now that they’ve added the one they got in exchange for DeMelo.
FILE: Dylan DeMelo. Elsa / Getty Images
Moved here as part of the deal that sent Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks in Sept, 2018, DeMelo is a unrestricted free agent on July 1. He wasn’t caught off guard by the deal and when he saw a phone call from Dorion Tuesday as he was preparing to take on the Buffalo Sabres at night he knew that his career with the club was likely over.
“I’m kind of (in) limbo right now. We’re playing the Senators Thursday so I don’t know if I’m going to leave now or I’m going to hang on here and wait until tomorrow,” DeMelo told Postmedia from his Ottawa home. “I’m not surprised, when you’re a week out you kind of see it progressing that way in regards to a trade possibly happening.
“I was just going through my routine, getting ready to play tonight against Buffalo and got the call and as soon as I saw that Pierre was calling I kind of had the idea that I was traded. That being said, I’m looking forward to an opportunity with a team right in the thick of the race for a playoff spot. We played them recently, it’s a really good team and they’ve got some really good pieces up front with a good goaltender, a good back end a great coach.
“It’s a good fit for me. With (Dustin) Byfuglien and (Jacob) Trouba being out, they’ve been talking about getting a defenceman, kind of all year. I’m happy they chose me and I’m hoping I can be that guy for them.”
Though there was no formal exchange of offers between the two sides when it came to discussing a contract extension, DeMelo indicated there had been exploratory talks between Dorion and his London-based agent Brian MacDonald. Let’s be honest, both sides would have had a pretty good idea what it would take to get a deal done even if offers hadn’t been tabled.
The Senators have to make a decision on veteran defenceman Mark Borowiecki this summer while the club already has Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin pencilled into spots next year. It’s quite possible that University of North Dakota draft pick Jacob Bernard-Docker could turn pro this summer and he’s expected to be in the top four down the road.
It’s unlikely the Senators were willing to commit to DeMelo long-term even if he has been a good fit on the club’s blueline with Thomas Chabot. Both sides knew where they stood in these discussions and the sense is they weren’t on the same page.
“I was a little surprised we didn’t get more talks going but at the same time I understand that they need to do what’s best for the team,” said DeMelo. “I definitely would have entertained an offer to stay in Ottawa but unfortunately we weren’t able to work something out.”
DeMelo said he knows what a great opportunity he has by joining the Jets.
“I’m a UFA at the end of the year, and to get to play in some meaningful games down the stretch with a team fighting for a playoff spot with an organization I think very highly of with Paul Maurice, is a great opportunity,” said DeMelo. “There’s a lot of good pieces for this team to be good for a long time. I just got traded there, I’m not going to talk long-term, but on the surface I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said he had been watching DeMelo for awhile.
“We’ve really liked his progression over time and what he’s become with his growth as a player and his development,” he said. “We were in the market for a defenceman. We stepped up all those efforts and as you can see there were multiple trades today.”
In a statement, Dorion wished DeMelo all the best in Winnipeg.
“On behalf of the organization, I’d like to thank Dylan DeMelo for his two seasons in Ottawa,” Doroion said. “Dylan is a high character individual and a reliable defenceman for whom we wish the best in Winnipeg.”
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