Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 | 2:12 p.m.
The Golden Knights have signed defenseman Jon Merrill to a two-year contract extension worth $2.75 million, the team announced today.
Merrill was acquired from the New Jersey Devils in June’s expansion draft and has one goal and one assist in 14 games this season with the Golden Knights.
The deal comes just one day after the Golden Knights signed fellow defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year, $1.5 million extension and will keep Merrill in Las Vegas through the 2019-20 season.
“I was extremely excited for the opportunity to stay here and be a part of this great organization for a couple more years,” Merrill said. “I really had no expectations when I was selected ... but (owner) Bill Foley and (general manager) George McPhee made it a point from the very beginning in training camp to make it a fun, hard-working environment.”
Merrill has spent much of the year as a healthy scratch but played well when he got ice time. He has only one goal on the season, but it was the game-winner in the Golden Knights’ 2-1 triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 14.
“I’m happy any time my number is called,” Merrill said. “I’m just happy to be a part of the team and contribute in whatever way they need me.”
The 25-year-old has also blocked 18 shots on the season and has a positive plus-minus for the first time in his career.
“I think with it being my fifth year in the league, I’m developing confidence and believing in myself,” Merrill said. “This team breeds confidence, and it’s helped a lot. We have really hard-working forwards that forecheck and backcheck, and that makes it a lot easier for us defenders to play.”
Merrill, who has 1- and 3-year-old daughters, said signing the extension was an easy decision.
“It’s an incredible city to live in,” Merrill said. “Everything is easy to get around to and people are extremely friendly. It’s a great place for my two young girls to grow up. Not to mention, the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena rivals any arena in the country in my opinion.”
The Oklahoma native has missed the last three games since being placed on the injured reserve Jan. 5 with an undisclosed injury. He didn’t make the current four-game road trip with the team.
“I’ve been progressing every day (with the injury) and hope to be back with the team as soon as I can,” he said.
Merrill is the seventh player under contract for the Golden Knights through the 2019-20 season. The team has so far allocated $26.5 million against its salary cap, which leaves plenty of space for McPhee to maneuver. The cap limit is $75 million, but that will increase.
Merrill isn’t likely to be a top-pairing defender for the Golden Knights any time soon, but that’s not a problem with a cap hit of only $1.375 million per year.
“I don’t really set specific goals of wanting to be a top-pairing defender or anything like that,” Merrill said. “I just want to be the best player that I can be going to the rink. I want to improve my game and provide something for this team. I just try to get better. I try to control what I can control.”