New Jersey Devils: Dawson Mercer Should Be Untouchable In All Trades

New Jersey Devils center Dawson Mercer (91) smiles during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils center Dawson Mercer (91) smiles during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils are in a place they haven’t been in a long, long time. They are one of the biggest buyers on the trade market as we approach the March 3rd NHL Trade Deadline. They haven’t been buyers at all in five years. In fact, most of the years, they had some of the biggest pieces as sellers. Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Blake Coleman, Sami Vatanen, Brian Boyle, Wayne SimmondsDmitry Kulikov, Andy Greene, and others were all considered huge pieces at various deadlines. This year, the Devils are trying to find those pieces to fit their run toward a Stanley Cup.

It feels like it’s too early to start thinking about a Cup. We should be happy that the Devils are likely going to make the playoffs. The team is playing very meaningful hockey in January. That’s all we should care about after this 10-year stretch of pain. However, it sounds like Tom Fitzgerald isn’t satisfied.

He tells Pierre Lebrun of The Athletic (subscription required) that if he’s looking to make a big splash, he doesn’t want a rental. He wants a piece that is going to help them for years to come.

That points to a player like Timo Meier, who is still an RFA (although with a $10 million qualifying offer), over a player like Bo Horvat or Ryan O’Reilly. Meier is still in the right age range (he’s 26 years old), he will be productive for at least the next five years, so a max-term contract doesn’t hurt the team too bad. There’s also an incredible amount of smoke surrounding Meier and the Devils.

However, the return the Sharks are asking for is likely holding back a deal. The Devils have a plethora of pieces the Sharks will want. Timo Meier is one of their best players. Along with Erik Karlsson and Tomas Hertl, Meier is one of the few pieces the Sharks have worth something. However, he’s just too old to be part of this rebuild, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Sharks to spend to the cap by keeping him long-term. So, the Sharks will turn him into cheaper and younger assets.

When looking at the Devils roster, former Devils coach and current Sharks GM Mike Grier is salivating. The Devils have one of the best prospect pools in hockey, the youngest NHL roster in the league, and all of their NHL Draft picks short of a third-round pick this season.

The Sharks are going to go big right off the bat. That means something insane like Jesper Bratt. That’s not going to happen. So, they’ll move down to the next tier of assets. That’s where you see young NHL players like Dawson Mercer and Yegor Sharangovich. This is where the conversation gets complicated.

There aren’t any teams who could send an asset (that’s willing to give up said asset) that’s equal to Dawson Mercer. The pieces we’re hearing are Matthew Knies with the Toronto Maple Leafs or Brennan Othmann from the New York Rangers. Maybe the bidding war changes if the Rangers offer Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere, but there’s no indication they will do that. So, the Devils should have no reason to offer Mercer.

Mercer isn’t great when it comes to pure stats (11 goals and 18 assists in 48 games this season), but he’s only 21 years old and already making an incredible impact to the team. He plays penalty kill and power play time. His 5v5 stats are still decent. He has a motor that doesn’t quit, and he brings something to the table in terms of effort that most NHL players can’t match.

Mercer is the type of player the Devils should be building around. We know Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are the only “core” players that get much mention, but a former first-round pick who made the NHL in his draft+1 year and hasn’t missed a game since needs to stick around now that the rebuild seems to be over.

Next. Devils Fans Must Be Patient About Timo Meier. dark

The Devils can make a deal work without Mercer. Add a second round pick to Alexander Holtz and a first-round pick (with NHL players like Mackenzie Blackwood or Tomas Tatar going the other way to make the salaries work). The Sharks are going to get a haul from the Devils in any Meier deal, but the Devils need to learn from previous mistakes from other franchises. Look at how the Devils got Mercer in the first place. It was from the Taylor Hall deal. That deal really hurt the Arizona Coyotes. The Devils shouldn’t make a similar mistake. Trading Dawson Mercer would be that mistake.