The San Jose Sharks have made several trades over the past four seasons that would qualify as “sale” moves.
They’ve traded good players like Barclay Goodrow, Brenden Dillon and Jake Middleton. They have traded franchise icons near the end of their careers, such as Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns. But the Sharks haven’t produced a core player at the peak of his powers.
That could change in the next few days.
The Sharks will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. They had never missed the postseason three seasons in a row before last year. First-year general manager Mike Grier made the first significant alteration to this club’s core shortly after taking over when he traded Burns to the Carolina Hurricanes.
His next big revamp is likely to be trading Timo Meier, San Jose’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons and one of the best power forwards in the NHL. Meier scored 35 goals and a career-high 76 points a season ago. He is on pace to score 45 goals this season, which would be the second most in franchise history behind Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56 in 2005-06.
Meier is also a restricted free agent after this season, and may be unrestricted at the end of 2023-24. His salary cap for this season is $6 million, but he’s being paid $10 million. That quirk, negotiated by his agent Claude Lemieux, who was Grier’s teammates with the Sharks, means San Jose, or a team that acquires Meier, must either sign him to a new contract or present him with a qualifying offer of $10 million to next season to retain their rights.
That turning point is the root of why the Sharks are likely to trade Meier between now and the March 3 deadline. Meier will turn 27 in October, and either in the first year of a massive long-term deal or playing on a one-year, $10 million deal that will lead to a massive long-term deal.
Grier could being able to turn the franchise around in time for Meier to still be in his prime and be a key player for a contender in San Jose. But it could also take several years, and the Sharks have plenty of other salary-cap issues to sort out from time to time as they amass enough impactful young talent to build a new core of a contending team. Having great players playing very well makes it harder to land the top draft picks who are more likely to usher in a new era of sustainable Stanley Cup contention.
So Meier has possibly been the most talked about commercial chip this cycle. He could be the best traded player between now and March 3.
What could the Sharks get for a leading scorer like Meier? We have requested the help of the athleticCorey Pronman’s to find some comparable trades and try to pin down what might be the best deals for Meier.
All three trades were for a high-scoring winger who was under team control for at least the next season. Montreal landed their future captain and No. 1 center (Nick Suzuki) and then handed the second over to Los Angeles for a third and fifth in the 2019 draft.
Buffalo used the 2022 first on Jiri Kulich, who has had one of the best plus-one draft seasons in his class, and Devon Levi is a strong goaltending prospect. Chicago took Kevin Korchinski with the seventh pick in the 2022 draft, and he’s one of the best defensive prospects in anyone’s pipeline.
Since most of these clubs will need to change salary for a Meier trade to work, we were especially drawn to the Max Pacioretty trade as a comparable. With that in mind, here’s what the offers for Meier would look like.
Potential trade package: RHD Scott Morrow, LW Jordan Martinook, 2023 first-round pick
pronman: It looks like Carolina is giving up the least of the three teams, but since they have the least amount of salary to move to, it makes sense to a degree and feels more analogous to the Sam Reinhart trade. Morrow is a strong defensive prospect with a lot of talent, although he’s not having as good a season as his freshman season with UMass-Amherst. San Jose gets two quality futures on him and a late debut. This may not be Shark’s favorite offering because there is no true premium asset on this exchange.
Masisak: The first question for Grier might have been Russian defender Alexander Nikishin, but the athletic one Pierre LeBrun reported that Carolina has told teams that he is not available. Morrow would instantly be the Sharks’ best defensive prospect. Martinook is a capable back-six forward who could be traded for a mid-round draft pick between now and the 2024 deadline. This wouldn’t be the most exciting package, but Grier probably isn’t worried about “winning the conference.” press” at this time. If Morrow and the team become key parts of the rebuild, fans will forget if they weren’t applauding the move the day it happened.
Potential trade package: RHD Shakir Mukhamadullin, LW Andreas Johnsson, 2023 first-round pick
pronman: New Jersey feels like the most natural trade partner for the Sharks. The Devils have a lot of very good young assets to part with, whether it’s Mukhamadullin, the first-round pick, Alexander Holtz, maybe even Dawson Mercer, not to mention several other quality prospects in their system. There are plenty of possibilities to mix and match depending on what the Devils are willing to part with and what the Sharks want. Although Mukhamadullin played in the KHL this season, he has already signed an NHL contract, removing much of the profile risk for him to be a very strong prospect.
Masisak: When the Devils drafted Mukhamadullin, I wrote that he was going to be the most exciting prospect in the NHL. Opinions about him were very diverse, and they remained so while I was still covering the team. I also wrote that the Sharks petition to the Devils should start with Mercer. Johnsson has a 10-team no-trade clause in his contract, but coming to San Jose would probably give him a better chance of showing off for his next contract. Given that he costs a bit more ($3 million, while Martinook is at $1.8 million), you could certainly see the Sharks trying to ask for a fourth active in the deal, whether that be a minor prospect or a 2024 mid-round pick. If the Devils want an extension with Meier (as LeBrun also reported), that could give San Jose a bit more leverage to ask for more.
Mukhamadullin and Morrow may not shape up as potential first-team defenses. People always want the prospect or draft pick to become Tage Thompson with Buffalo or Jarome Iginla with Calgary in these types of trades. In hindsight, many fan bases would be happy if a part of the comeback had become a solid defensive back for half a decade.
(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)