Merrill, 29, split this season between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens, joining the latter at the deadline only to end up on a deep playoff run. The 6’3″ defenseman has played 405 regular season games in the NHL, but always seems to be at the bottom of a depth chart. His career-high of 15 points was set in 2018-19 with the Vegas Golden Knights, but he actually averaged more ice time this season at 18:15.
In Minnesota, he becomes the sixth defenseman on a one-way contract, sliding in behind newcomers Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov. Though it seemed likely that prospect Calen Addison would receive a chance to crack the NHL lineup, the team now at least has an option if the 21-year-old is not quite ready. The fact that Merrill and Goligoski have experience on both the left and right side will be a bonus for the Wild, who can mix and match the bottom pairing this season.
There’s a connection in the Wild front office for Merrill, as Ray Shero now acts as a senior advisor. Shero was the general manager in New Jersey in the early part of Merrill’s career and when the Golden Knights plucked him through the expansion draft. The two are together again, though now it’s GM Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason that Merrill will have to impress to keep his place in the everyday lineup.