Something Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after captain Ryan O’Reilly’s recent transfer to Toronto caught the attention of many in St. Louis.
Now, this has caught the attention of those interested in Timo Meier’s situation in San Jose.
When asked what the Blues could do with all the draft capital they’ve acquired, Armstrong explained: “We have to retire with players 25, 26 (years old) and under, who have a duration of contract, so that they can develop with this next core of players that we have.
There are plenty of players in the NHL who fit that description, but the name that immediately jumps out at you is Meier. The 26-year-old forward doesn’t have that tenure now, but he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and could be signed to any tenure teams like the Blues desire.
Tuesday, Athleticism Pierre LeBrun has confirmed that the Blues have touched base in San Jose regarding Meier, whose availability is also being monitored by a few other clubs.
The trade game could mean a lot to Armstrong and the Blues following the departures of O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. Although very expensive, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound winger checks a lot of boxes for the type of player Armstrong is looking to add to a young core with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.
Let’s dig deep on the fit. Here are all the big questions around Meier ending up in St. Louis.
What is Timo Meier’s situation in San Jose?
Masisak: Meier was the ninth pick in a loaded 2015 NHL draft and looked like a certain star after producing 30 goals and 66 points in his second full season at age 22. There’s been a frustrating two-year decline, but Meier has established himself as one of the league’s top power forwards over the past two seasons.
He set career highs with 35 goals and 76 points in 2021-22, and he followed that up with an even better campaign. He has 31 goals and 52 points in 57 games (that’s a pace of 44 goals in 82 games) and has always been a dominant offensive force despite garnering a lot of attention on a heavy roster.
Meier and the Sharks are at a crossroads, however. He is a pending restricted free agent, playing the final year of a four-year, $24 million contract. While his cap is $6 million, Meier’s actual salary this year is $10 million. That means the Sharks or any team that acquires him must either work out a new contract or make him a $10 million qualifying offer for next season to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Beyond the potential for a $10 million cap hit in 2023-24 for a Sharks club that has plenty of other cap-related headaches to sort out, this is the fourth straight season San Jose will miss. the playoffs, a franchise record for futility. And first-year general manager Mike Grier seems more committed to a patient rebuilding approach than his predecessors.
So when can the Sharks be a contender again? And does that suit Meier, who turns 27 in October? San Jose does not have to trade Meier by the March 3 deadline. The Sharks could wait until the summer, before the 2023 NHL Draft, or even until the next trade deadline. But all signs point to Meier finishing this season with a new club, assuming Grier finds a trade package he’s comfortable with.
Which other teams are interested?
Masisak: A few teams that made sense as Meier’s suitors have already made a big trade. The Islanders added Bo Horvat, while the Rangers and Maple Leafs nabbed the Blues’ two main trading assets.
The two clubs that have been most strongly and consistently linked to Meier are the Devils and the Hurricanes. They are vying for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, and both have the assets and the financial flexibility to make a tempting offer. The Devils, in particular, have the largest collection of active youngsters to manage of any contender in the league, although LeBrun has signaled that New Jersey would like to have a contract extension in place with Meier to complete the deal.
There have been reports suggesting the Golden Knights could also be interested, given that Mark Stone’s contract can stay on injured reserve long-term and open up space. But it’s also pretty hard to imagine the Sharks being okay with Meier potentially spending the next eight-plus seasons playing for their biggest rival unless the Golden Knights come up with an offer too good to pass on.
Does Meier make sense for Saint-Louis?
Rutherford: In 2015, I heard that St. Louis and San Jose set up a trade that the Sharks eventually pulled out of. From what I understand of the deal, the Sharks were sending Blues Tomas Hertl and the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, and the returning Blues were TJ Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The reason I’m talking about it now: San Jose ultimately used that pick to take Meier. There’s no guarantee the Blues would have caught him – Mikko Rantanen went to Colorado at No. 10 and Mathew Barzal to the Islanders at No. 16, among other options – but there was a chance Meier was drafted by the Blues.
Eight years later, it makes a lot of sense. As mentioned, Armstrong wants to add to his new core, and Meier, who turns 27 in October, is at the upper end of his desired age range. And after the departures of Tarasenko and O’Reilly, the Blues will have to rebuild their attack. Meier, a 30-goal three-time scorer, is a proven commodity in that regard. Additionally, he brings some physicality which the club will likely lose if/when Ivan Barbashev is traded. Meier leads the Sharks with 112 hits this season, or 5.9 per game.
If the Blues brought in Meier, who can play left or right, their top six might look like:
What does San Jose want?
Masisak: There are two obvious places to start here: The Blues suddenly have three first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. They also have two intriguing forwards who were selected in the first round of the last two drafts: Zachary Bolduc and Jimmy Snuggerud.
I think it’s pretty simple at the macro level. LeBrun reported that the Sharks wanted three pieces for Meier, two of which were presumed to be a top prospect and a first-round pick. A team or a general manager can evaluate these five assets in a different order than another. Here’s how I think the Sharks would value them:
|Sharks’ Favorite Trade Options (in order)|
1. Blues 2023 first-round pick
2. Jimmy Snuggerud
3. (tie) First-round pick New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Zachary Bolduc
It’s not an affront to Bolduc so much as a nod to the Sharks’ timeline. Bolduc is two years closer to free will than the 2023 picks.
Obviously, the Blues would like to trade for Meier and keep their own pick, considering if the season ended today it would be either first, second, ninth, 10th or 11th in a strong draft class. Conversely, this pick is something teams like the Devils, Hurricanes and Golden Knights don’t have to offer.
It seems obvious that the choice would need some level of protection: the first two at a minimum. The interesting part of the deal would be…can the Sharks get it with just top-two protection? Would the Blues want him protected in the top nine or top 10? Then, if one of the other frontrunners is involved, do the Sharks get the higher or the lower of the two? It won’t matter much, but if one of those teams is eliminated early and the other wins the Stanley Cup, the difference could be eight or nine spots.
What would Saint-Louis be willing to give up?
Rutherford: What Corey wrote above all makes sense from the Sharks’ perspective. If they move Meier, it will be a first-round pick, a top prospect and maybe more.
What I wonder is if, instead of putting Snuggerud or Bolduc in the deal, the Blues offer two of their first-round picks and a lesser prospect. They have the No. 19 ranked prospect pool, according to Athleticism Scott Wheeler and those two forwards, Snuggerud and Bolduc, are Nos. 1 and 2 on Wheeler’s list.
Armstrong could soon have a fourth first round in 2023 if teams meet his asking price on Barbashev. If he could walk away with Meier, keep Snuggerud and Bolduc and still have two first-rounders in the draft, that would be a stroke of genius. But I guess Grier will want one of those prospects and probably Snuggerud. If that’s a deal breaker for the Sharks, it could be tough for Armstrong.
Plus, as Corey wrote, the Blues could offer something other chasers can’t, with a potentially high first-round pick. But, yes, there should be protection on that pick in case the Blues enter the Connor Bedard draw.
In a perfect world, from the Blues’ perspective, they’d want to get away with trading two of their first-round picks to San Jose and only their own if he’s not in the top five or so.
Does a deal make sense?
Rutherford: The area I haven’t entered yet, which is the huge elephant in the room, is Meier’s next contract. According to CapFriendly, the Blues have approximately $12.7 million in projected salary cap space for 2023-24, and that’s with just 14 players under contract.
Athleticism player card for Meier lists him with a market value of $10.4 million. But even if you get him for less than that, he’ll be a $9 or $10 million a year player on a long-term contract. The Blues can’t afford it unless they get cash out, and who will it be? There’s speculation that Armstrong is buying a defenseman, but even if he’s able to move around, say, Colton Parayko and his $6.5 million cap, that might not be enough for Meier. And then who replaces Parayko?
Meier makes sense for the Blues, but it will take a big offer from the Sharks and a lot of cap gymnastics.
Masisak: If the Sharks can either get the Blues first, even with top-10 protection, or Snuggerud as their first play, and then either pick the Rangers or the Leafs or Bolduc as their second play, then that’s a package that comes together. stacks well with just about anything New Jersey or Carolina has to offer. And it might even surpass them.
If San Jose ended up with two of the Rangers’ picks, the Leafs’ pick and Bolduc, that would be a good deal, but the third piece would matter a little more and might not match potential offers from other clubs.
If the Blues’ best offer for Meier only includes one of the Rangers’ picks, the Leafs’ pick and Bolduc, plus other things, then Grier is either going to trade him somewhere else…or he’ll have to sell his fanbase on how it was the best offer available.
(Photo by Timo Meier and Colton Parayko: Jeff Curry/USA Today)