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Merkley Signs With KHL’s Kunlun Red Star

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Ryan Merkley might have to learn Chinese.

The Beijing-in-name, but currently Moscow-based Kunlun Red Star announced the signing of Merkley to a one-year contract today, on the eve of the beginning of their regular season on Sept. 2.

Merkley, 23, will look to turn around a professional career that began with much promise. The San Jose Sharks selected the 5-foot-11 defenseman in the first round of the 2018 Draft.

The offense-first blueliner, however, couldn’t establish himself offensively or defensively in parts of four seasons in the AHL and NHL.

In January, the San Jose Sharks traded Merkley, along with Matt Nieto, to the Colorado Avalanche for Martin Kaut and Jacob MacDonald. The pending RFA had previously requested a trade.

In 39 NHL appearances, all in 2021-22, Merkley recorded a goal and five assists. Between the San Jose Barracuda and Colorado Eagles, in 121 AHL games, he posted four goals and 48 assists.

The Avs, however, decided to not qualify Merkley, coming out of his ELC, this off-season.

Merkley will look to take it to another level at Kunlun’s home away from home. Because of COVID travel restrictions, the Red Star have played their home games at Mytishchi Arena in Moscow since 2020-21.

He’s still young. Perhaps the once-top San Jose Sharks prospect can return to the NHL one day as a power play specialist, an Erik Gustafsson-type?

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