The Ottawa Senators have a very busy few weeks ahead of them. Their NHL Trade Deadline won’t be as crazy as last year, however, they still have lots of potential pieces to move. Ron Hainsey, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Tyler Ennis are all UFA’s that could be gone. However, one of the names that have been floated recently is UFA defenceman Dylan DeMelo. Unless there is an offer you just can’t refuse, trading Dylan DeMelo would be a mistake for the Ottawa Senators.
Dylan DeMelo Shouldn’t Be Moved
This won’t all be about his underlying numbers, however, it is a good idea to understand what kind of player DeMelo is. He is a defence first type of guy who doesn’t stand out much. This is a good thing though, when he’s not standing out it usually means that he is making the correct play. He has played up and down the lineup this season. Starting the year on the third pair with Mark Borowiecki. However, he has also moved up and played alongside Thomas Chabot at times, especially when Hainsey is out.
DeMelo’s numbers reflect someone who has absolutely earned more minutes for his team. This season, he has killed it when he has been on the ice. From Natural StatTrick, he has a 52.61 CorsiFor% and a 56.42 ExpectedGoals%. This is first among any Sens defenceman who has more than 10 games played. He is also the only defenceman over 50% in CF% and the only other Sens defenceman in xGF% is Erik Brannstrom, who is just at 50%.
When DeMelo is on the ice, the Senators control play. Both in shot share but also the quality of attempts. His Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes is also the lowest among Sens defenceman. He lets up 2.17 xG against per every 60 minutes played. This ranks 76th in the entire league for defenceman. When he is on the ice, the Senators just don’t let anything up.
If you need any more proof that DeMelo is good at what he does, let’s take a look at some visuals. The first chart is from HockeyViz and it shows the quality of chances the Senators give up when Dylan DeMelo is on the ice vs off of it.
The difference here is staggering. Now, it’s not like Ottawa has a lot of defensively strong players anyways. However, the ability for DeMelo to keep shots away from the front of the net, especially the right side where he plays is incredible. Compare it to what happens when he is off the ice and you get a very different story.
Below, is another chart from Evolving-Hockey. This chart shows Corsi, xG for and against, and goals for all per 60 minutes. It is compared to Hainsey just to give a sense of what other Senators defenceman looks like.
Once again, DeMelo is positive in everything. In fact, he is over one standard deviation above the mean in every category this graph shows. Numbers are not everything, but when you can consistently put up above-average numbers like this it certainly tells part of the story. More than you can tell from just simply looking at his point totals.
Dylan DeMelo is the Ideal Partner For Chabot
One of the biggest reasons to keep Dylan DeMelo around is that his role in Ottawa for at least another year or two is so obvious. Let him play alongside Thomas Chabot. This works perfectly for a few reasons. The first is that their styles match up perfectly. Chabot loves to run wild and create transitions and offence. Whereas DeMelo can cover up for him and help him in his own end, where he really struggles. It’s the same idea that Ottawa always had with Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot. One can go out and produce while the other one plays a much quieter but still important role. Its plays like the one he makes below that make him such a good fit for Chabot. His awareness on the defensive side of the game can fit perfectly.
Perfect clip of how weak-side D can come across and kill rushes (or even touches) when forwards don’t have support, courtesy Dylan DeMelo. pic.twitter.com/qfxxyQzS0f
— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) January 29, 2020
The other reason is that he can help shelter the rookies as they come in. Ottawa will have guys coming into play soon enough. Christian Jaros, Lassi Thompson and Jacob Bernard-Docker are all defencemen who are on the right-side and Ottawa will want playing within a few seasons. However, you can’t just throw any of these guys into the fire when they eventually do get full-time NHL minutes. Allowing DeMelo to play with Chabot and take top-pair minutes while the team develops their prospects could be crucial. If DeMelo were to stay in Ottawa on a mid-term deal, say three or four years, then he could shelter rookies for the start and perhaps take a lesser role as his contract starts to run out.
Weak Right Side
Part of that also comes with the fact that Ottawa has such a weak right side, especially next season. No one really expects Ottawa to be unreal next year unless they get some extreme lottery luck. However, improvement will be expected. Hainsey is already 38-years-old and just simply isn’t qualified for top pair minutes. After that, you have Nikita Zaitsev. He isn’t Cody Ceci, however, he has a lot of faults of his own too. If he is the guy you are trusting in all situations you may be in trouble.
Again, for next season, there also just aren’t many more options for the right side. There is Jaros who likely isn’t a top-four player, Cody Goloubef who isn’t even an NHL player, and beyond that, you have to hope someone young steps up. That or you sign a free agent, however, you are likely overpaying someone on the free-agent market. DeMelo knows Ottawa, seems to like Ottawa and has a connection here. He just seems like a better option.
Character and Contract
The last two reasons Ottawa should look to keep Dylan DeMelo aren’t as easy to quantify. “Character” is usually a word that gets thrown around way too much to justify bad contracts. David Backes, Milan Lucic, etc. Those kinds of deals become about “character” and “intangibles” when they can no longer produce. However, leadership and character certainly have a place in NHL locker rooms.
By all accounts, DeMelo looks like a great guy to have around such a young team. Obviously we are not in the dressing room with him, but the amount of work he does for Ottawa’s social media team is amazing. He genuinely seems to enjoy it and enjoys joking around with his teammates too. That kind of energy is so important to a team that may not win a ton of games.
He also will likely be cheap enough to re-sign. He only has eight assists through 40 games this year. Contracts tend to get boosted when the counting stats are there. However, as we have seen, they don’t need to be for DeMelo. But this likely means his price tag won’t be too high. For a multi-year deal, it’s hard to see it being over three million dollars. For a guy who is only 26, that cost for 2-4 years would be a great deal.
Only Reason To Trade Him
The only real reason Ottawa should trade DeMelo is if it is obvious they can’t hammer out a new deal or that he wants to leave. If this is the case then yes, trading him makes logical sense. However, just given how he acts and looks on the ice and off of it, if Ottawa gives him a fair deal it would be somewhat surprising if he truly wanted to leave. The only other reason Ottawa should move on is if they are handed something they just can’t turn down. A first-round pick or a really good prospect or something like that. However, this is very unlikely that it would happen.
Other than that, the numbers and everything about him points to someone Ottawa should keep for their rebuild, not get rid of. Both his on-ice numbers and off-ice personality is exactly what any team should want. Which is why Ottawa shouldn’t trade Dylan DeMelo.