The downward trend of Jon Merrill continued this year. Coming into the season people still held out some hope for the 23-year old defenseman. He was once a very promising young prospect who looked like a solid potential top four guy. Maybe the 14-15 season was his sophomore slump and a year of maturing would do him some good…that certainly wasn’t the case. Offensively, he was as dismal as we’ve ever seen him, only putting up 5 points. Merrill has never been a scorer but he was at least able to break double digits in points each of the last 2 seasons. He struggled to create breakouts and had many untimely turnovers over the course of his 47 games. Sure it is hard to find points on one of the worst offenses in the league but Merrill did nothing to help that fact. Defensively Merrill struggled as well. He was routinely getting beat by the opposition. Mental lapses along with physical mistakes certainly made this a year to forget for Jon Merrill.
Merrill will be cheap. The Devils aren’t in a bad cap situation or anything but they certainly won’t have to overpay to keep Merrill around. Merrill is also still fairly young for a defenseman, who generally take longer to reach their prime than forwards. Like I said earlier, he’s only 23 and could continue improving parts of his game to stay serviceable in the NHL. At one point, Merrill looked like he could be a calming presence on the blue line. He could always revert back to what he once was but recently that hasn’t looked to be the case. He could just be struggling to get comfortable in the NHL. Even if that’s the case at this point Merrill won’t be anything more than a bottom pairing defenseman. Since teams will always have a need for bottom pairing defenseman, it isn’t necessarily the worst outcome in the world.
On a team lacking offense the Devils don’t need another player who can’t put up points. The Devils can’t afford to give a spot to a guy who only scored 3 goals over the last 2 seasons. Especially a guy who is routinely a detriment to the offense due to their propensity for making turnovers. Merrill also doesn’t provide enough defensively either to offset his offensive troubles. If the Devils gave Merrill a spot they would essentially be taking a spot away from a young up and comer with more upside like Vojtech Mozik or Steve Santini.
Not likely. Jon Merrill has just become expendable at this point. He has shown no signs of further upside over his brief NHL career. Merrill isn’t going to succeed in New Jersey beyond playing on the bottom pairing (if that). The Devils would be better off giving his spot to a younger player and allowing them to grow in the NHL. The only saving grace I can think of for Merrill is if the Devils want to keep Mozik and Santini in Albany at the start of the season to get some more experience before jumping into the NHL. Still once either of the 2 were ready Merrill is the first guy gone off the roster. There are plenty of defenseman who can do a better job than Merrill can in free agency too. At this point the best decision is to let him go.