In his prime, Jason Demers was a capable second pairing defenseman that was reliable in his own end and could contribute a little bit offensively. Those days have come and gone but the veteran can still make a case to be brought in as a serviceable option on the third pairing.
Unfortunately, the 33-year-old will be relying on his track record over his career to make that claim, not his performance last season. There’s no sugar coating it – 2020-21 wasn’t pretty. Demers slipped down the depth chart to the third pairing, averaged his lowest ice time in nearly a decade, and eventually found himself scratched with some frequency down the stretch with Arizona well out of playoff contention.
But while it’s certainly reasonable to consider that this is a sign of things to come, Demers was in a top-four role as recently as 2019-20 where he was a fixture on Arizona’s penalty kill and logging more than 20 minutes per game. It’s unlikely he’ll get back to that form but players don’t often drop from being a top-four blueliner to borderline unplayable quite that quickly. A small bounce-back season is certainly doable.
What also helps Demers is that he’s a right-shot defender which is a position of some scarcity around the league and certainly among the remaining rearguards on the open market. While handedness isn’t as big of a factor for some coaches as it is for others, being a righty should open up some extra opportunities.