The Jets will welcome back one of their injured forwards tonight as they announced (Twitter link) that winger Mason Appleton will return to the lineup tonight against Chicago. To make room for him on the active roster, defenseman Dylan DeMelo has been placed on injured reserve.
The 27-year-old had gotten off to a nice start to his season, picking up a goal and five assists in 14 games before suffering a wrist injury back in mid-November. Appleton had been logging 16:34 per contest which was considerably above his career average of 13:00. With his return, this will be pretty much as close to Winnipeg having their full complement of forwards with fourth liner David Gustafsson being the only one left on IR.
That is of particular importance to Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Not only does Appleton’s return give him a chance to assess what his full forward group looks like to help determine their needs heading into the trade deadline, it also has allowed them to get back to banking cap space. At one point not that long ago, they were nearly in a spot where they had to dip into LTIR. Now, per CapFriendly, their current roster sits about $2MM below the cap with Winnipeg projecting to have more than $9MM in cap room before next month’s trade deadline. Not many buyers will have that type of financial flexibility to work with.
Meanwhile, although the Jets moved DeMelo to IR, he’s making progress in returning to the lineup, per Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun. The veteran has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury but is skating on his own. He won’t obviously play tonight but hasn’t been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest against Seattle. Once DeMelo is cleared to return, Winnipeg will have to open up another roster spot and their only three waiver-exempt players are forwards Cole Perfetti and Morgan Barron along with blueliner Dylan Samberg.