After four seasons in New Jersey, Mark Fayne was courted away from the Devils by the Oilers on July 1st. The Free Agent Frenzy that is July 1st, saw Fayne agree to a 4-year, 14.5 million dollar deal with Edmonton after not being able to reach a deal with the Devils in the month prior.
Despite the hole left in the top defensive pairing, the Devils have plenty of viable options to help fill the hole left by Fayne’s departure. New Jersey currently has Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Jonathan Merrill, Adam Larsson, and Peter Harrold under contract, and Eric Gelinas‘ still in negotiations, and all available to be paired with Andy Greene next year. Should none of these options be a good fit, given the incredible depth New Jersey has in its farm system, perhaps a rookie could get the call to be matched with Greene, like a Damon Severson. However, that being a highly unlikely option, it would be best to match Greene, the new cornerstone of their defense, with a player who can match his abilities .
Unless the Devils make a move, Pete DeBoer should look no further than the youthful Jonathan Merrill. After his first full season in the NHL, Merrill showed incredible potential as he posted 2 goals, 9 assists and a rating of -3 in 52 games this season. Compared to Fayne’s 4 goals, 7 assists, and -5 rating in 72 games last year, Merrill looked to have more offensive prowess in his first year than Fayne had in what was his 4th.
Merrill could potentially fit Mark Fayne’s shoes perfectly, as both defenders size up to 6’3″. Fayne has often been criticized of not taking full advantage of his size as a defender, Merrill could take note and learn from this. Being about 10 pounds lighter than his potential predecessor, Merrill could improve his defensive play by focusing on becoming a bigger body on the ice. Getting bigger could set him up to become a more dominating force in Devil’s defensive zone in the near future.
Jonathan Merrill has been slated as one of the Devils most exciting prospects as he worked his way up to the NHL, and after reaching the big club this season, we finally got to see him. Throughout the year fans watched as Merrill had times of solid defensive work, moments of greatness, and made the occasional rookie mistake. After a year filled with promise, it is not improbable that Lou saw the loss of Mark Fayne as an expendable casualty, since he knew he already had a suitable replacement in Merrill. If given the chance to be paired with Andy Greene, Merrill and the Devils could be in for a great season, with him having the potential to be a better option than Mark Fayne.
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