A lot of attention was heaped upon the San Jose Sharks earlier this month when general manager Mike Grier said he would be open to listening to trade offers for superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Really, though, Grier was just confirming what had already been reported – that he would consider trading just about anyone on the Sharks roster if it made sense for the organization.
So when that was revealed in October, the first player that should have jumped to mind wasn’t Karlsson, it should have been Timo Meier.
Meier, set to become a restricted free agent at season’s end, had his fourth career NHL hat trick Wednesday night but the Sharks once again committed a handful of costly mistakes and turnovers in what became an 8-5 loss to the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena.
After collecting just two assists in the Sharks’ 2-7-0 start, Meier now has 17 points over the last 13 games, and his 12 goals were tied for eighth in the NHL before Friday’s games.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Meier has 243 points in 301 games, or an average of .81 points per game, tied for 67th among all NHL forwards in that time.
Players with those resumes could bring in a sizeable return, one that would help ease the Sharks’ pain of trading their best goal-scorer.
Nevertheless, despite Meier’s individual statistics, the Sharks still have a 7-12-3 record with a .386 point percentage that ranks 15th out of 16 teams in the Western Conference. Per NHL Stats, going back to the 2005-06 season, only 23.7 percent of the teams that were out of a playoff position on US Thanksgiving went on to make the postseason.
Unless the Sharks start stringing wins together, starting with their games against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, they’ll once again become sellers prior to the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
With Meier, 26, under team control for only one more season after this one, speculation has already started that he could be one of the more marquee players available in three months’ time.
Meier is due a $10 million qualifying offer from the Sharks this offseason if a long-term extension cannot be signed, and he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
It would not make sense for the Sharks to give Meier that money and let him walk straight to UFA status. They could still deal him at the 2024 trade deadline, but the return would potentially be less than it would be in March or in the summer.
So if Grier gets the right offer before March 3, he could easily trade Meier, whose contract does not have any trade protection.
But Grier also doesn’t appear to be against keeping Meier long-term, and the Sharks are under no obligation to trade him right away. They could easily keep Meier for the entire season, and issue him the qualifying offer this summer to keep the conversation going on a new contract.
Grier’s most likely path forward is one he set forth with the other Sharks stars: Take his cues from the player and go from there.
If Meier wants to stay in San Jose, then it’s up to his agent, former Sharks winger Claude Lemieux, to try to work something out with the organization that makes sense for both sides.
Meier might be looking for a deal similar to the one signed by Tomas Hertl: eight years with an average annual value of around $8 million or higher. Hertl, a centerman, has 237 points in his last 279 games, or a .85 point per game average, and has a deal that carries an AAV of $8.125 million.
“Timo’s a good player and we hope he wants to be here,” Grier said this summer. “Until I hear otherwise, I’ll assume that this is the place that he wants to be.”
“I’m here right now and I want to be the best Timo Meier I can be,” Meier said shortly before the season began.
But if Meier doesn’t want to stay long-term – something Grier would likely need to know by next offseason – then the Sharks would almost certainly have to trade him or work out a sign-and-trade with another team to help maximize their return.
That’s what Calgary general manager Brad Treliving did in July with Matthew Tkachuk, an RFA who informed the Flames he wasn’t going to sign a long-term contract with the team.
With that knowledge, Treliving, working in concert with Tkachuk’s camp, dealt the forward and a conditional 2024 fourth-round draft pick to the Florida Panthers for winger Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a conditional 2025 first-round pick .
Grier might not get that same quality return if he goes down that path, simply because Meier hasn’t been as productive as Tkachuk in his career. Still, a deal similar to that would help the Sharks get out of an unpleasant situation.
For now, Grier is keeping all of his options open as he continues to try reshaping the Sharks to his liking. Whether that involves Meier is something that might not be known for a few more months.