Apologies for the lateness, but there was some significant offseason news with the New Jersey Devils today. The Devils announced through their website that defenseman Jon Merrill underwent right shoulder surgery. I did not know he needed it. The surgery was a success. However, he will be out for quite some time. Andrew Gross wrote about the procedure at Fire & Ice, quoting from Ray Shero that "the expected recovery time is approximately four months."
While I'm sure getting the surgery was necessary, it is definitely not an ideal situation for Merrill and the Devils. Gross correctly noted that the expected time would push Merrill's return right into the middle of training camp at best. Instead of working out in preparation for the 2016-17 season, Merrill would be rehabilitating the shoulder at most. He may be able to get into some preseason games to get more into a NHL-ready form, but it'll take additional work and time to catch up to other rearguards who have been able to prepare. Given that Merrill did not exactly impress anyone last season, his spot on the depth chart may change depending on what Shero does in this offseason with respect to the blueline If it's nothing, then they're banking on Merrill coming back and playing well enough for a regular roster spot. Is that a safe bet? Again, he didn't play particularly well last season so I'm not really sure it would be.
Adding to the non-ideal nature of this news is that Merrill is up for a new contract. The 24-year old defenseman's entry level contract is up and he's a pending restricted free agent. I don't think there is a question that he'll get another contract. The question will be for how much and how long. Not that his performances make that answer an easy one to answer. Now that he's undergone shoulder surgery and he's played in 165 out of a potential of 246 games over the last three seasons makes it even harder. And if you wanted the Devils to part ways with Merrill some how, well, that's not going to happen anytime soon either.
All the same, I wish Merrill the best in his recovery. I also wish that's the end of surprising news out of nowhere about Devils players needing and having surgery. This is the third one already. Credit to Shero for going Lou in terms of controlling the message, at least. What do you make of this news? Were you surprised Merrill needed this surgery? How does this impact what Shero does this summer, if at all? Will any other Devils be announced as having had surgery and needing time to recover this summer? Please leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.