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Devils Potential Trade Target: Timo Meier

If he is moved, Timo Meier might be the best player traded at the deadline this season. This post looks at why the Devils should be interested in the Sharks top line winger.

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NHL: San Jose Sharks at New Jersey Devils
Here is a picture of Timo Meier celebrating a goal at Prudential Center. If many Devils fans get their wish, he’ll be scoring a lot more goals at Prudential Center.
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I began a multi-week series where I took a look at players who would potentially be available at the trade deadline who could help the Devils in the playoffs. I started out this series with Adam Henrique, but I wasn’t surprised to see half the comments talking about Timo Meier. After all, Meier is expected to be available and he’s seemingly become the next white whale for Devils fans to wishcast onto the roster after the fanbase previously tried to summon circle Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Nikita Gusev to Newark, among others.

I wasn’t planning on writing about Meier for a few more weeks, but decided to move him up on my list for a few reasons. Trade talks in general around the NHL seem to be accelerating as the contenders and pretenders are becoming more obvious. I believe smart teams will try to get out in front of the market, do their shopping early, and give the incoming player more time to get acclimated on a new team. Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman mentioned in their 32 Thoughts podcast that Meier could be one of the first big players off the board. The Connor Bedard sweepstakes are also a factor as there is incentive for bad teams to get good players off of their rosters as soon as possible to increase their odds. Lastly, I’m not blind or stupid. I see the Meier comments on that thread and every other thread. Rather than dance around it and write about everybody else BUT Meier, I’ll give the people what they want.

So let’s dive into Timo Meier, what he does well, what he might cost, if the Sharks might keep him, where he’d fit on the Devils now, and if the Devils can realistically fit him in with their cap situation going forward.

Who is Timo Meier?

Timo Meier was selected by the San Jose Sharks with the 9th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Swiss native is listed at 6’1” and 220 lbs. and has primarily played right wing in the NHL despite being a left-handed shot. It should be noted that he’s been the top line left wing for the Sharks recently. He made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season, posting a modest six points in 34 games. He broke out during the 2018-19 campaign with his first 30 goal campaign. He also made a big impact for the Sharks during their postseason run that year with 5 goals and 10 assists in 20 postseason games before San Jose lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in six games. Meier continued to be productive during the two pandemic-shortened seasons before posting 35 goals and 41 assists in 77 games last year and 27 goals and 20 assists in 48 games this season. Meier has also been a fixture on the top line for the Swiss national team at Worlds the last few years, as has Devils captain Nico Hischier.

Meier signed a 4 year extension worth $6M AAV prior to the 2019-20 season. He is currently in the final year of that deal, which is paying him a whopping $10M base salary this season. Since Meier is an RFA at the end of this season with arbitration rights, the qualifying offer for him next season would be $10M.

But enough background stuff that you already know. Why is Meier so highly coveted? See for yourself.

Meier is big, strong and has a heavy shot. He’s not afraid to shoot, as his 219 SOG this season would lead the Devils (Hughes has 207). He can score from a lot of angles. He can also get into the high danger areas and either redirect pucks past the goaltender, bat the puck out of midair or bury rebounds. Alex Ovechkin is well known for getting into the Ovi spot to get his lethal shot off on the power play. Meier is a similar player in that respect from the other circle. He’s an opportunistic player, but he also creates those opportunities by getting to the front of the net and into areas where if someone can get him the puck, he can do something with it.

Meier is a top possession player that I would think Tyler Dellow and Matt Cane would endorse pursuing. He is 19th in the NHL with a 58.48 xGF% among all skaters with at least 500 minutes of ice time, while being a positive possession player. He’s been the most valuable player on the Sharks in terms of GSVA. Mike shared his isolated xG impacts when he wrote about him earlier this week and they confirmed what the eye test already told us in regards to Meier. He is good.

If you’re one who screams into the void about how nobody on this Devils team HITS anyone, his 106 hits would also lead the Devils. He’ll also drop the mitts and fight with someone bigger than him, if necessary.

At 26 years old, he would slot in nicely with the Devils forward corps of Jack Hughes (21), Nico Hischier (24), and presumably Jesper Bratt (24) and be a key offensive contributor over the next 8 and a half years....assuming he signs a long-term deal.

Why would the Sharks move him?

The San Jose Sharks are not a very good hockey team, currently sitting in 7th place in the Pacific division and poised to miss the postseason for a 4th consecutive season.

New GM Mike Grier inherited a mess. He started to clean it up this past offseason when he traded long-time defenseman Brent Burns to Carolina, and surely is working the phones with Erik Karlsson’s resurgence this offseason in hopes of finding a taker for his massive $11.5M AAV through the 2026-27 season. They still have massive commitments on the books to Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. San Jose has some top prospects with William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau in the pipeline and will add another one in the Top 10 of this year’s draft, but they don’t have the deepest prospect pool. The Athletic has them ranked at 17th, which isn’t great for a team that has already missed the playoffs the last three seasons and won’t be playoff bound again anytime soon.

One way the Sharks could rebuild their prospect pool in a hurry would be to move Meier. After all, Meier is the best player on the team and would return the draft capital and promising young players that rebuilding teams desire. There is no shortage of interest in Meier around the league. Meier would make sense for a bunch of teams aside from the Devils, including the Hurricanes, Rangers, Islanders, Jets, and Sabres.

With all of that said, I’m not entirely sure the Sharks SHOULD move him. Meier is still relatively young and could be part of the next good Sharks team in a few years. He might not be “franchise cornerstone” great like a Connor McDavid or Jack Hughes is, but he can be one of the four or five best players on a Cup champion. Meier is worth building around. But the Sharks have made their bed with years of bad personnel decisions, and it might be time for them to lie in it. It’s Grier’s job to fix this mess and one could argue the quickest way he can rebuild the Sharks into a contender would be by trading his most valuable player in Meier.

What Would Meier Bring to the Table?

Meier would be another top-line, point-per-game player on a Devils team that is already one of the best in the league offensively at 3.48 goals per game (6th in the NHL). He also brings a different dynamic than most of the other Devils forwards already on the roster with his shoot-first, ask questions later mentality and his ability to clean up the garbage in the front of the net.

I believe the Devils need help in their bottom six more than they need a top line scoring winger, but one way they could work towards that goal is similar to how they built a deeper blueline. Acquire players better than the ones you currently have and slot them in properly into the lineup. After all, this is a Devils team that has insisted Erik Haula is a top six winger all year despite all of the evidence proving the contrary. Meier is also a force on the power-play, which would be good news for a Devils unit that is 18th in the league.

If the Devils acquired Meier (and only Meier) at the deadline, I’d probably write my hypothetical lineup card like this. I hate to break up the Palat-Hischier-Bratt line as I think they’re playing well but I like the idea of getting the two “shoot-first” players in Hughes and Meier on separate lines.

Tatar - Hischier - Meier

Palat - Hughes - Bratt

Sharangovich - Haula - Mercer

Wood - Boqvist - Bastian

Why is the Meier Situation Complicated?

Meier’s situation is complicated because of his 10M qualifying offer and pending RFA status.

That qualifying offer doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s automatically going to make $10M next season. It simply means that he can accept the $10M qualifying offer from the Sharks (or any team) and be eligible to hit UFA after the 2023-24 season. The qualifying offer in this case is designed to make it more likely that a team, any team, ultimately reaches a long-term agreement with him. Meier doesn’t have no-trade protection, but he does have leverage in that he can simply choose to accept his QO and hit the market next year if he’s not happy with his situation. Its not too different from what we saw this past offseason with Matthew Tkachuk where he ultimately landed in his preferred destination of Florida after deciding he didn’t want to sign in Calgary long-term.

Meier has reportedly had conversations with the Sharks about a potential contract extension with those talks not going very far. According to Elliotte Friedman, the Sharks are willing to let an acquiring team talk contract with Meier and his agent if they get an offer they like. It’s simply a guess on my part, but I believe the Sharks would let a team agree to a contract with Meier to max out the trade return.

If I’m Tom Fitzgerald, I’m not making any trade with the kind of assets we’re going to discuss without a new contract in hand. Fortunately, I do think its possible the Devils could be on Meier’s preferred list and that he would sign an extension. The Devils are a more attractive landing spot than they were six months ago with the success they’ve had this season. There is the Swiss connection with Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler on the roster and neither one going anywhere anytime soon. Grier was on the Devils coaching staff as recently as 2019-20. The Sharks director of player personnel is Scott Fitzgerald, brother of Tom. Meier’s agent is Claude Lemieux. Yes, THAT Claude Lemieux. Lemieux also happens to represent Fabian Zetterlund, but my point is that there are enough people in Meier’s circle to sell him on New Jersey and that it’s the right place for him to go.

The last thing that makes this situation complicated is the uncertainty with Jesper Bratt’s contractual status past this season. Most of the Devils core is locked up through at least 2026-27. The one major exception to that is Bratt, who is an RFA after this season with arbitration rights. Bratt has said in the past that he would like to stay long-term in New Jersey but has yet to put pen to paper on a long-term deal. As things currently stand, Bratt can hit the open market after the 2023-24 season.

Recent contracts for top line scoring wingers includes Johnny Gaudreau ($9.75M AAV), Matthew Tkachuk ($9.5M), Kirill Kaprizov ($9M), Patrik Laine ($8.7M), and Filip Forsberg ($8.5). For argument’s sake, let’s say that Meier is willing to sign with the Devils for $9M AAV. Assuming the cap ceiling only increases $1M to $83.5M, the Devils would have approximately $56.69M committed to 11 players on next year’s cap (plus dead cap). This would leave roughly $26.85M to sign Bratt and 11 other players to fill out the roster. The Devils have 8 pending RFAs and all but one (Kevin Bahl) have arbitration rights. That doesn’t leave a ton of money to pay Bratt, resign any UFAs, take care of which RFAs they decide to keep, and bring in other depth pieces for the roster. Paying Bratt on top of Meier is doable, in theory, although you’re looking at a top heavy roster that’ll have to do cap gymnastics every year because they can’t find the necessary depth you need to build a Cup winner. Yes, the Devils should have some notable players on ELCs to help balance their books, but it’s a tight needle for Tom Fitzgerald and the people who manage the Devils salary cap to thread. You don’t want to necessarily become Toronto South with a top-heavy roster that can plow its way through the regular season but do nothing in the playoffs because you lack depth.

With this in mind, Jesper Bratt won’t be in any trade proposals I come up with. There’s no reason for him to want to stay in San Jose and with the Devils in contention, it would defeat the purpose of subtracting him from this year’s team. If I were Tom Fitzgerald, I’d get the Meier deal done now and worry about Bratt when the time for that comes.

Your Devils roster for the next 4 years would be built around Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Ondrej Palat, Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler, and John Marino. And maybe Jesper Bratt. Time will tell if that team is good enough to win a Stanley Cup before 2027, when Hischier is due a new deal and Palat and Marino will also hit UFA.

What Would It Take to Acquire Meier?

Timo Meier is arguably the best player in the league who might switch teams in-season this year. Expect this to be a trade that hurts. You’re not getting him for the Jesper Boqvists and Reilly Walshs of the world as the centerpieces of the deal.

San Jose will ask for Luke Hughes or Simon Nemec. The Devils should make both of them off-limits and rightfully so. They’ll need both of them to be able to step onto the NHL roster as early as next season with Damon Severson and Ryan Graves possibly leaving as free agents. The Sharks could really use a young center back as part of any Meier trade and would presumably ask for Dawson Mercer. I would think the Devils would be hesitant to move him as well, as he looks like a potential core piece and has a year remaining on his ELC.

Next up on the top prospect list Alexander Holtz and this is where things get interesting. Meier is what you’re hoping Holtz ultimately becomes as a finished product, except Meier is that guy right now and he’s only 26. The Sharks would get a top prospect in Holtz with two years remaining on his ELC. That’s a good starting point in addition to the mandatory first round pick the Devils would have to surrender. Trading Holtz would hurt if he becomes what the Devils thought he’d become when they took him 7th overall in 2020, but this is Timo Meier we’re talking about.

After that, if I’m the Sharks, I’m asking for Seamus Casey. The Sharks rebuild will take several years and they can afford to be patient while Casey develops at Michigan for a few years and then in the AHL. I’m taking a leap of faith in assuming that Grier and both Fitzgerald brothers view building the blueline the same way in terms of getting players of that particular skillset. If Tom Fitzgerald is adamant on keeping Casey, perhaps Shakir Mukhamadullin or Topias Vilen would be a suitable alternative as the 3rd most valuable asset in said trade. The Devils have a deep farm system with a wide variety of players with different skillsets so they should be able to find an agreement both parties can live with.

After that, I think the proposed trade is probably mostly filler from this point on, but there are two final complicating factors. First, the Sharks are at the maximum 50 contracts. Swapping Meier for, say, Alex Holtz and Seamus Casey would keep the Sharks at 50 since Casey hasn’t signed his ELC yet. Secondly, the Devils probably need to include Andreas Johnsson and have the Sharks retain 50% on Meier to make the cap math work. Taking on Johnsson would also put the Sharks over the contract limit. San Jose has a couple career AHLers on expiring deals that they could include to stay under the max contracts, but any other filler in the trade would probably have to come in the form of draft pick compensation. Otherwise, this deal will become bloated with upwards of 7-9 players involved or more complicated than it needs to be if the Devils and Sharks have to rope a third team in.

My proposed trade is as follows.

Devils receive: Timo Meier, who immediately signs an 8 year extension worth $9M AAV, C.J. Suess (AHL) and a 2024 4th round draft pick (via Vegas)

Sharks receive: 2023 1st round pick (unprotected), 2024 2nd round pick, Alexander Holtz, Seamus Casey, and Andreas Johnsson (if he’ll waive his M-NTC) or Miles Wood (if Johnsson won’t). Sharks retain 50% on Meier’s remaining salary for 2022-23.

Is that package good enough? Maybe. Maybe not. Seems worth it to me to add a PPG scoring winger who can help the Devils win right now. It’s also a deal I can live with as a Devils fan who is ready to go for it. I think its about as good as the Sharks could realistically hope for if they’re intent on moving Meier. It does seem to align with what Frank Seravalli reported in terms of a comparable asking price for a scoring winger. The Blackhawks received a 1st round pick (7th overall), a 2nd round pick, and a future 3rd round pick when they traded Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa. The Sens have 2 years of control with DeBrincat, although he has a big $9M qualifying offer after this season that needs to be addressed. The Devils first round pick won’t be as good as the 7th overall pick the Senators gave up, but they would make up the difference if they put Holtz and Casey on the table, and the Devils extra 2nd round pick they’re including is probably partly the cost of business to retain salary and partly put the Devils package over the top. I acknowledge there’s no reason for the Sharks to want Johnsson or Wood otherwise.

Grier can’t afford not to get the best package he can with Meier if he moves him, but this ultimately depends how desperate other suitors will be. The Rangers have an extra first round pick from the Stars they can play with and could really make things interesting if they ever decided to put Alexis Lafreniere on the table, but they lack the cap space to extend Meier. The Islanders have the picks and the glaring need but probably don’t have the prospects or cap space to make Meier work. The Hurricanes have a glaring need after losing Max Pacioretty to a season-ending Achilles injury and enough picks and prospects to work with, but as we saw with Dougie Hamilton, they’ll value guys to an extent and walk away from signing them if they don’t see eye-to-eye on their value. In other words, I don’t see Carolina doing this without a contract in hand either. The Kraken have plenty of picks to work with but lack the prospect pool (and the Sharks might not want to send Meier in-division if they can help it). The Jets have the cap space but lack the picks and prospects. Buffalo and Detroit aren’t really in the playoff picture now as it is and it might be too early in their timelines to make such a bold move. The Flyers might be delusional enough to want to play in the deep end of the pool, but they’re a lot more than a Timo Meier away from contention.

If Grier doesn’t get an offer he likes, he can hold Meier for now, offer Meier the qualifying offer to retain his rights, and shop him around until he gets an offer he does like and a destination where Meier is willing to sign. He does run the risk of getting a lesser return with just one year of control and the possibility that Meier accepts the qualifying offer, but hey, it worked out for Brad Treliving in Calgary when he dealt Tkachuk for a 1st round pick, Jonathan Huberdeau, and MacKenzie Weegar. At least in the short term.

I can’t stress this enough. The Sharks do not necessarily have to trade Timo Meier right now or before the deadline. The Devils (or any team) have to be willing to offer enough to convince them to do so and Meier gets some say in whether or not he’ll sign. We’ll see if anyone does. My guess is someone will and the Sharks will see the writing on the wall that they can’t keep Meier long-term, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he goes nowhere for now and this is an offseason move.

Final Thoughts

If the Sharks make Timo Meier available, teams around the NHL should be lining up to try to acquire his services. Meier may or may not be the ideal fit depending how you view the Devils current roster and needs, but he would undoubtedly make them better. The Devils might have the right combination of picks, prospects, cap space, and desire to do something that sees Meier heading to Newark for the first of several Cup runs....if the Sharks are willing to take the plunge.

You’ve heard enough from me though, so now, I turn things over to you. Would you want to see the Devils trade for Meier? Do you think he’d be a good fit on this Devils team? What do you think the cost would be to acquire him and do you think he’d be worth it? Am I selling it too low with the trade cost or am I not going far enough? Will the Sharks even move him? Please feel free to leave a comment below, and thank you for reading!

(all stats referenced don’t include games played on 1/24/23)