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The Latest on Devils’ Dawson Mercer Contract, Other RFA’s

Here’s the latest from General Manager Tom Fitzgerald on the status of Dawson Mercer and the other Devils restricted free agents.

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New Jersey Devils center Dawson Mercer (91) looks to pass during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

NEWARK — On the last day of New Jersey Devils development camp, General Manager Tom Fitzgerald addressed the media, speaking to the offseason acquisitions and departures he’s made.

One of the key hot topics was Dawson Mercer — the Devils’ top restricted free agent — and the status of his contract. There was some speculation that the Devils might trade the restricted free agents rights, however, that theory has been nixed as although teams asked about his status, the Devils value Mercer too much to deal him and turned down offers.

According to the Devils’ GM, negotiations haven’t even started yet as Fitzgerald’s focus was on the NHL Draft and free agency. However, those items are next on his checklist.

“Yeah, we’re gonna start [negotiations] — his agent and I — after July 1st,” Fitzgerald explained. “Dawson, we feel, is a long-term player for us. Where we go with terms is going to be judged on the dollars. We only have so much money to spend. I like the fact that where we project him to still give us flexibility with our cap to continue to accrue with the possibility of adding down the road.”

Following free agency, the Devils are working with $4,976,103 in cap space to get Mercer under contract.

According to AFP Analytics, on a short-term two-year contract, he’s projected to receive a $3,793,680 average annual value which certainly fits within the cap space New Jersey has left.

However, on a long-term, six-year deal, Mercer projects to earn $6,521,182, which means the Devils will need to clear out some cap.

The 22-year-old forward scored 20 goals and 33 points last season which was a regression — along with the rest of the team — from his 2022-23 performance which he scored 27 goals and 56 points. Still, Mercer made the NHL roster right out of his draft year and has played in every single game — 82 each season — since, including all 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games last spring.

Fitzgerald admitted he’s done adding via free agency this summer. Therefore, it appears Tyler Toffoli’s 35-goal pace he provided last season won’t be replaced externally. However, Fitzgerald mentioned Mercer by name as a player who he could see step up and provide more offense.

“A guy like Dawson Mercer is gonna get an opportunity to continue to grow and explode, hopefully,” Fitzgerald said when asked about replacing Toffoli’s goal scoring production.

Perhaps it makes more sense from Mercer’s perspective to work on a bridge deal to sign another contract later for more term and dollars. Especially after Fitzgerald explained he’d like to see him grow even further.

As for the remaining RFA’s, the Devils have Nolan Foote, Nico Daws, Santeri Hatakka, and the newly acquired Adam Beckman to ink to new deals. Fitzgerald explained now that things are calming down for the summer, he’s going to address his RFA’s sooner-rather-than-later.

Oh yeah, we’ll get to those guys in short order here. When you get through the draft, then next thing you know you’re crammed for July 1st. You’re RFAs are the last on the totem pole to get to because they’re not going anywhere. So yeah, we’ll get to all of those things.

Devils fans can seemingly put their phones down at this point. But keep your ringers on in the case an extension is announced. Negotiations with the Devils’ RFA’s very well may wrap up before you know it.

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