Merrill to return to Michigan, Berenson says ‘it’s the right thing’ for big defenseman

Defenseman Jon Merrill will be back with Michigan for his junior season this fall and will not sign with the New Jersey Devils, the team that selected him in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft.

The Detroit News reported the news Monday afternoon.

“Johnny talked with me this morning and indicated he’ll be coming back,” Michigan coach Red Berenson told the paper. “He definitely had some dialogue with New Jersey. Jon realized he only played half of the season [in 2011-12] and he wants to be ready when he makes the move. He wants to be competing for an NHL job when he does. He doesn’t want to be playing in the minors. I think it’s the right thing for him.”

Merrill missed the first 22 games last season due to a team-imposed suspension, but still recorded two goals and 11 points in 19 games. He was also suspended during his time with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

The story also quoted the 72-year-old Berenson as saying he has no plans on retiring before his recent three-year contract extension expires after the 2015-16 season.

“It seems like it was just yesterday when I signed my last three-year contract,” said Berenson to the News. “It was just two years ago. I’m assuming this will be my last contract, my last four years [as head coach].”