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To Trade Meier or Not to Trade Meier?



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

For years, San Jose Sharks fans have bemoaned Timo Meier getting selected ninth-overall ahead of 10th pick Mikko Rantanen and 16th pick Mat Barzal in the 2015 Draft.

Safe to say, Meier has closed the gap in the last two seasons.

Meier has 66 goals since last year, good for fifth from the 2015 Draft class, trailing Connor McDavid, Kirill Kaprizov, Kyle Connor, and Rantanen. Rantanen has four more goals than Meier in five less games, but Meier hasn’t had the benefit of playing with perennial Hart candidate Nathan MacKinnon.

Meier has 128 points, sixth of that group, trailing McDavid, Kaprizov, Mitch Marner, Rantanen, and Connor. Meier has 20 more points than Barzal in three more games.

It’s not say that Meier would go ahead of say, Barzal, in a 2015 re-Draft. But it’s at least a debate between the two, which you wouldn’t have said in 2020-21, when Meier was slogging through the worst full NHL season of his career.

“I’d probably stick with the center,” an NHL scout told San Jose Hockey Now. “But Meier was still a great pick. No one should be complaining about that.”

It seems like the Sharks had it right with Meier at No. 9 — Connor McDavid, Kirill Kaprizov, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Sebastian Aho, Connor, and Rantanen are probably ahead in a re-Draft. Meier, Barzal, Roope Hintz, Zach Werenski, and Thomas Chabot would likely be in the next layer.

I was thinking about this while watching Meier single-handedly score the San Jose Sharks’ lone goal in their 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night.

The winger seized the open lane with authority and held off 6-foot-3 Marcus Pettersson on the way to a highlight-reel tuck:

“He’s an elite player in this league. He’s a very difficult guy to contain,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn said. “It’s a big-time goal, a power forward goal.”

And all this makes me think about the many Sharks fans who want to keep the pending RFA as opposed to the many who want to trade him to accelerate a rebuild.

In the end, there were no “Let’s Keep Timo” chants to be heard last night.

That’s nothing against Meier, of course.

His emergence as a star coincided with the wrong time in Sharks history – three years and running out of the playoffs, the worst crowds in franchise history, even excluding the COVID year – so he’s not as popular as he should be. And speaking of the wrong time – there’s a reasonable chance that the 26-year-old will be out of his prime the next time that San Jose sees the playoffs – hence the many fans who love his game but want to trade him while the iron is hot.

But going back to the 2015 Draft, and I’ve said this before – “this is why teams draft prospects, to see them become what Meier has become.”

What Makes Meier ‘Unique’…And Why Would Sharks Trade Such a Special Player?

To that end, those who want to keep Meier for the next eight or so years – and remember, we don’t even know for sure that Meier wants to be here – will say that the Sharks aren’t likely to get a better player (in the future) than Meier in his prime (right now).

It’s a fair point.

To the other thing, about whether or not Meier wants to be here, my feeling, just speculative, is that the star winger would seriously consider staying if San Jose wants him. I don’t get any sense that Meier actively wants out, even with the Sharks’ losing record.

Anyway, the Sharks aren’t likely to get a better player (in the future) than Meier (in his prime) in a trade. But Meier putting up 40-40 for bad Sharks teams doesn’t do you a whole lot of good either. If you trade or draft wisely – and get lucky – you at least have a chance of coming out ahead as a team in a Meier trade.

The Colorado Avalanche is a good recent example of this, converting 27-year-old Matt Duchene in Nov. 2017 into a package of assets that would include prospect Samuel Girard and 2019 fourth-overall pick Bowen Byram.

Duchene, like Meier, was headed to a big payday, inking a seven-year, $56 million contract in Jul. 2019.

Were the Avs better off with Duchene instead of defensemen Girard ($5 million cap hit) and Byram ($894,167 cap hit with potential $2.5 million in bonuses) eating up top-four minutes through their 2021-22 championship campaign? Now and in the future?

Duchene has enjoyed some strong seasons since getting dealt, including a 43-goal campaign last year. But I have to think that Colorado is happy with their end of the bargain, especially if 21-year-old Byram can overcome his history of concussions and fulfill his potential.

You don’t need every asset that you get back in a Meier trade to hit either: Looking at what the Avs got for Duchene, directly or indirectly, 2017 first-rounder Shane Bowers and 2014 second-rounder Vladislav Kamenev haven’t, and probably won’t, establish themselves as full-time NHL’ers. Journeyman goalie Andrew Hammond retired in December.

Meanwhile, 2018 third-rounder Justus Annunen and 2018 fifth-rounder Daniil Zhuravlyov (from a 2018 Nashville Predators’ second-round pick), and 2019 third-rounder Matthew Stienburg aren’t high-ceiling Colorado prospects either.

Of course, Meier isn’t likely to command eight assets in the end – it sounds like the Sharks are looking for around three assets, quality over quantity. But the point is, if you acquire the right younger and cheaper pieces for Meier, your team could be on the upswing just as Meier might be in the downswing of his career.

The operative word is “right”: You want to be the Avs after dealing Duchene, and not the Montreal Canadiens after trading Patrick Roy.

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