One of the players that the New Jersey Devils received in exchange for Taylor Hall was Nick Merkley, a 23-year old forward originally drafted in the first round by the Arizona Coyotes. Merkley ended up playing 28 games for the Devils’ minor league affiliate and four games in the NHL, but will now be playing overseas for the next few months.
Merkley has signed a one-year contract with Assat of the Finnish Liiga, though the deal does have an NHL out-clause that runs through mid-December. The young forward’s entry-level contract is coming to an end in the NHL and he will be a restricted free agent, meaning if he comes to an agreement with the Devils he can be back in time for training camp.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the two sides to come to a deal and even if they do, the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 AHL season will be something to consider. If New Jersey wasn’t planning on using Merkley at the NHL level, perhaps they will allow him to play and develop in Finland this season.
The 30th-overall selection in 2015, Merkley has just five NHL games under his belt to this point. He has performed well enough at the AHL level, but still hasn’t quite been that dominant offensive presence that scored 117 points in his draft year or even the one that had 18 goals and 39 points in just 38 games as a minor league rookie.