Ahead of contract negotiation, New Jersey Devils shouldn't worry about Dawson Mercer

The New Jersey Devils had so much go wrong this season, but an underrated element was the regression of Dawson Mercer. However, his issues aren't foundational and shouldn't lead to overreaction.
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have so much to address this offseason. They have to replace multiple major roster holes, including one at the goaltender position. To replace some of these holes, the Devils will need to make trades to get the best possible asset. Of course, in a trade, one must give to get. The premiere piece many have floated is Dawson Mercer.

Just a year ago, Mercer was considered a key cog in this team's potential championship window. Now, many look at him as just a young asset that is only useful in getting something better. That's not the drop in value we expected. Mercer was, at times, the best player on the ice in 2022-23. This season, that never happened.

There are a lot of really valuable assets out there, including possibly Brady Tkachuk and Mitch Marner. If the Devils can use Mercer to get an absolute star, then it's hard to argue their motivation at this very moment, but that threshold is high. We're not talking about a goalie, which has been needed for over a year now. The Devils need to get a star at a position that is absolutely necessary.

The drop in production might have also dropped Mercer's value. While he did score 20 goals, he finished the season with a paltry 13 assists. His offensive numbers absolutely tanked. Now, it could be because of his linemates. He spent just over 100 minutes of ice time with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes separately. Lindy Ruff didn't give either pairing time to breathe.

However, Mercer's offense is much more than that. He was on the ice for 54 goals against. That matches Jesper Bratt at 5v5 and is second-worst on the team behind Timo Meier. Once difference is Meier and Bratt were on the ice for a lot more goals. Mercer was only on the ice for 39 5v5 goals, 16 of which came off his stick. Bratt was on the ice for 70.

One reason many have brought up Mercer's name is his contract status. He is a restricted free agent this offseason, coming off his entry-level contract. He doesn't have arbitration rights, a situation Tom Fitzgerald will go to extreme lengths to avoid. So, it should be a decently easy negotiation. In fact, Mercer's drop in production might be a reason why it's easy. Mercer might except a smaller deal with term to stick around.

Mercer definitely needs to be better next season, but this year was such an outlier compared to his first two years. The Devils and the fanbase should not overreact to what we saw.