Newark, NJ – It was bound to be a busy summer for New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald. 13 expiring contracts on July 1st were tied for the most among the 32 teams in the NHL. Fitzgerald has already been busy after dealing Damon Severson, locking up Jesper Bratt, and is now negotiating with Timo Meier. Fitzgerald has already proven to be an overachiever. Now, he also wants to explore tying up Dawson Mercer long-term this summer.
Mercer is entering the third year of his entry-level contract. He quickly adjusted to the pace of the NHL just one year after New Jersey selected him in the first round, 18th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. Mercer has now participated in 82 games each season for the last two seasons. His adjustment to the NHL has been rather quick and his development continues to only trend upward. After an impressive 2022-23 season, Mercer has instilled in the organization’s mind that he’s now part of the core.
Despite having a year left on his deal, the 21-year-old forward has the right to sign an extension as soon as July 1st. According to Fitzgerald, he hasn’t had that conversation with Mercer’s camp yet. However, it’s on his to-do list.
“To be honest, I haven’t had dialogue with his camp, yet,” Fitzgerald explained. “It’s something I’d like to explore. Sure, we can do that right on July 1st. We could do it on August 1st, too. We could do it on September 1st. July 1st is just the start time. I do plan on talking to his representatives just to see where they’re at and what their vision is. How that fits into what we’re trying to do right now. There’s no rush, but I definitely would like to explore tying this young man up long-term.”
Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to be in a rush to sign Mercer right this second. That checks out due to how many other contracts he’s dealing with that are much more time sensitive. However, Fitzgerald did speak about how the salary cap and its projections to increase are unreliable. He lives in the now in terms of making deals. It would certainly be in his best interest to lock Mercer up long-term sooner than later while the cap is still flat. Otherwise, he runs the risk of Mercer increasing his value. The young forward’s ceiling is certainly high, and he already sniffed 30 goals in a season.
In 2022-23, Mercer tallied 27 goals and 56 points. It was certainly a step up from his rookie campaign when he potted 17 goals and 42 points. In 12 playoff games, Mercer contributed three goals and seven points.
Mercer carved himself out a role in the Devils’ top six. One should expect him to return there next season. In talking about himself at exit meetings, Mercer did sprinkle in his desire that he wants to remain a member of the Devils long-term.
“I just want to be the best player I can be every night when I go out (on the ice). I give my all,” Mercer explained. “When it starts going your way, you want to make sure you’ve got hold of that and use that opportunity. I think I really did that. I’ve always said I want to be a big part of this team and group. I’m pleased with how I ended my season.”
It might not happen today, nor tomorrow, but exploring the opportunity to extend Mercer is on the table for Fitzgerald. For the benefit of the organization, sooner rather than later is more beneficial.
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