Ahead of the Sharks’ meeting with the Stars on Wednesday night, Timo Meier had notched 25 goals and 45 points in 45 games. That puts him on pace for about 46 goals and 82 points across an 82-game season. That would surpass the highs he set last year, with 35 goals and 76 points in 77 games.
That scoring only scratches the surface of Meier’s skill, and why teams should be trying to find ways to acquire the winger.
What Meier brings to the lineup
Meier’s a high-end offensive creator. Any team looking for a shooting winger should start their search here. The winger excels at driving play up the ice and into the offensive zone with control. And oftentimes, he turns that zone entry into a scoring chance for his team. His offensive creation slants toward rush chances, but Meier can still create off the cycle — and on a team with more two-way support, he’d probably expand on that.
This year, he’s one of the most frequent shooters in the league and what’s impressive is that he’s not being set up by high-danger passes at a ridiculously high rate, either. It shows the individual effort that goes into his scoring chances of him.
And while Meier’s on pace for a career year, there’s a consistency to his game. His impact on the Sharks’ expected-goal generation has been far above average through almost every season. The only down year, 2020-21, was clearly an outlier season.
What makes Meier all the more valuable is that he’s not a pending unrestricted free agent. A team adds a bonafide top-line caliber winger for more than one postseason run. He fits a team that’s in win-now mode, and a team just starting to push into the playoff mix. This is different from a 27- or 28-year-old who will bring a few years of high-end impact before trailing off or steeply declining. That’s why there’s plenty of interest in him.
Why the Sharks would trade him
If a team had a player like Meier, why in the world would they move him?
The Sharks probably don’t want to, but given their situation, it may make the most sense. San Jose needs, at the very least, a retool. Given their cap situation and prospect pool, a full-blown rebuild could be in their best interest. That means moving impact players to bring back future assets that would thread the needle because the few pending unrestricted free agents they have will only bring back so much. The more talent they move out now, the better their chances of plummeting in the standings this year which betters their chances of winning Connor Bedard.
While Meier fits the window of a range of teams, the Sharks may be too far removed from the postseason conversation as things stand to legitimately contend during his prime. So it may not make sense to pay the pending restricted free agent what he’s worth, whether it’s the $10 million qualifying he’s due because of his current contract structure, or a lengthy extension. If he were to be a free agent last year, Evolving-Hockey projected an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $8.2 million. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn, on the other hand, gives Meier a market value of $10.8 million. His next contract likely falls between those two values.
That won’t buy the Sharks the financial flexibility they need to improve the team around their core. As it is, they have to manage three more seasons of Marc-Édouard Vlasic at $7 million in cap space, four years of Logan Couture ($8 million) and Erik Karlsson (11.5 million), plus Thomas Hertl‘s $8.1 million for another full seven seasons. Having Meier obviously gives them the best chance to succeed with these core players, but this team needs the assets that moving out players like Meier could bring back.
Teams who should be in the mix for Meier
Anytime there’s been a high-end forward on the market, the Devils have been in the conversation of potential destinations. They struck out on Alex DeBrincat and Johnny Gaudreaubut landed veteran Ondrej Palat. While he’s a good top-nine forward to add, he’s not the elite winger this team he was originally vying for. That’s why this squad could look to Meier to solidify the top of their lineup.
Salary will be a consideration, especially considering the fact that Jesper Bratt is in for a raise this summer as well. But management should be able to navigate and make it all work. The expectation should be for more entry-level players to get into the mix over the next few seasons, particularly on defence, which should help balance the books. Plus, New Jersey has the assets the Sharks should be looking for between their picks — they have all of theirs for the next three years besides a 2023 third-rounder — and prospects.
The Rangers kicked it into win-now mode sooner than later to capitalize off of career years of core players last year. Now the goal is to accomplish more than they did last year. In order to do that, the team may need some help on the right side of their lineup.
New York’s right winger depth needs help. Kaapo Kakko seems to have solidified his role in the top six the most out of the three, Vitaly Kravtsov seems more like a middle-six option, and Alexis Lafreniere hasn’t hit his stride enough on the right or his natural side, the left. If coaching won’t maximize the younger talent they have, management may prefer going for it with a player like Meier. And that could make more sense in the long term versus a past-their-prime rental like Patrick Kane. It would also mean bringing in a shooter to play alongside elite point guard Artemi Panarin.
Can New York afford it? They have two first-rounders this year, and some young talents to move. But management may be hesitant to part with what it costs to add this one player and struggle to find the long-term cap space to make it work.
Sticking in the same New York metro area, the Islanders are also an option. Of the three teams, they’re in win-now mode more than their competitors considering the ages of their core players. So management should be going all in with legitimately skilled players, not adding more grinders.
The Islanders needed another top-six winger for some time. Oliver Wahlstrom should develop into that, but it never hurts to add more skill now to better their chances. Meier could fit well with a puck-mover like Matthew Barzalor add more dimensions to Brock Nelson‘s line with another shooting threat.
Cap space is the problem. The team would have to move a lot out to extend Meier, and the Sharks probably prefer to have a greater return. This team has the draft picks to move, but their prospects are more underwhelming than their nearby opponents. And that could be what holds a trade back.
Rick Bowness has brought the stability and structure the Jets have clearly been missing these last few years. Winnipeg, who has been near the top of the Western Conference for much of the season, is aiming for a long playoff run. And right now, they have a number of pieces to get there. Their leading players — a center, on the wing, on defense and in goal — are playing up to the level a contender needs. But the Jets could use another top-six winger now and in the long term to round out their group. Meier would be an intriguing fit, if management was willing to get that spicy.
The Jets generally haven’t been the splashiest team when it comes to the trade deadline, and it’s not clear if that’s suddenly going to change. But maybe if it’s for someone like Meier, who could contribute for years to come, management would consider it — granted, the winger would want to sign a long-term deal there. That’s the key to this deal, that the Sharks don’t have to make one right now since he’s a pending RFA, not UFA. Winnipeg should be able to make the cap picture click, but do they have the assets to entice San Jose?
While the above four teams could be viewed as ‘contenders’ trying to focus on ‘the right now,’ there are dark horses as well.
The Kraken are disrupting the Western Conference and, according to Luszczyszyn’s model, have an 85 percent chance of making the postseason. No one expects Seattle to go all in this year, and rightfully so. But it wouldn’t be surprising if they made a trade with long-term ramifications to better their chances now and in the future. The Kraken’s strength is their depth — they lead with their number of unique goal scorers that are up and down their lineup, and back on defense. But with a difference-maker like Meier, plus Matty Beniers blossoming into a star these next few years, this team could take their game to the next level.
Meier would become their most expensive contract, since no one carries a cap hit above $6 million in Seattle. But the Kraken should be able to find a way to make this work. They’re not loaded with prospects just yet, but they have a ton of draft picks to flex.
Unlike the Kraken, the Sabers’ playoff chances are dwindling. But no one expected them to be at that point just yet. Buffalo’s progressing to tons. That growth paired with an addition like Meier could make this team a more legitimate threat next season. A Meier trade to the Sabers could mirror the Alex DeBrincat deal to Ottawa. the Senators they weren’t a playoff threat at the time of the deal, but made it so they better their chances of becoming one. Buffalo’s a bit top-heavy with their top line, but Meier, maybe paired with Dylan Cozens on the second line, helps balance that out for years to come.
After years of retooling, the Sabers have future assets. Now they need more right-now pieces that’ll help this team for years to come.
Sticking in the Atlantic, there’s the Red Wings. While the Senators were busy renovating their offense last summer, Detroit focused on defense. The problem is, their forward group currently ranks 22nd in the league in terms of GSVA. That should change if (or when) Jakub Vrána returns to the NHL level, but it will only help so much. Meier, however, would be a game-changer that could really kick this offense up a notch. It would move some players into more appropriate roles, and help refine an area ahead of Dylan Larkin‘s next contract. This would be a better route than just adding a likely overpriced player in free agency and trying to maximize their next few seasons before an inevitable decline considering the team’s timeline. And Detroit has the capital to move in both draft picks and prospects. Would anyone be surprised to see Steve Yzerman with a trick up his sleeve to land a player like this?
(Top photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)