Acquired back in January with Matt Nieto, the now 23 year old defenseman was looking for a fresh start after asking for a trade from the San Jose Sharks. He got that fresh start, but didn’t make much of it.
In 28 games with the Colorado Eagles, he picked up just 8 points, and was ultimately scratched in the playoffs. Sam Malinski, who was signed in March, came in and immediately outplayed Merkley, essentially taking his job. With his struggles and a glut of AHL defenseman, the Avalanche chose not to qualify Merkley, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Well, the former first round pick is now taking his talent overseas, as he’s signed a 1 year deal in the KHL.
Kunlun Red Star agreed to terms on 1-year contract with D Ryan Merkley
🇨🇦Oakville, ON native, Merkley (2000, 6'0", 185 lbs) has 39 games for @SanJoseSharks in NHL
— Kunlun Red Star (@KRSchina) August 18, 2023
Maybe he’ll turn things around in the KHL, but I doubt he has much of an NHL career ahead of him. The same issues that plagued him in San Jose’s system were there after he arrived in Colorado. He was an offensive defenseman who didn’t exactly provide much offense. It’s hard to make a positive impact when that’s the case.
San Jose didn’t exactly make out much better in that trade, though. Martin Kaut, who the Avalanche picked in the first round in 2018, signed a contract to play in the Czech Republic. After he signed, he went viral after he talked about how the AHL coach for the Sharks tried to make him fight every game. You can read more about that here if you missed it.
At least the Sharks still have Jacob MacDonald from the trade. The Avalanche allowed Matt Nieto to walk in free agency.