Timo Meier expected trade after Sharks didn't talk contract extension
Meier trade finalizes inevitable split between Sharks, star winger originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Timo Meier is just 26 years old and won't turn 27 until October, so, on the surface, he seemed like the perfect player for the Sharks.
But Meier's impending restricted free agency, along with San Jose's current trajectory, made him an odd fit. Young and productive but unable to help the Sharks consistently win.
So on Sunday, the Sharks traded Meier, defensemen Scott Harrington and Santeri Hatakka, forward Timur Ibragimov, goalie Zach Emond and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick (via Colorado) to the New Jersey Devils for defensemen Shakir Makhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk, wingers Fabian Zetterland and Andreas Johnsson, a 2023 first-round selection, a conditional 2024 first-rounder and a 2024 seventh-rounder.
The deal ends Meier's seven-year Sharks tenure.
Shortly after both teams announced the trade, Meier spoke to reporters on a video conference call and was asked if a Sharks contract extension ever was an option.
"There never really was any further talks about an extension, so at a certain point, you kind of think there's going to be a trade happening," Meier said when asked by San Jose Hockey Now's Sheng Peng. "But you never know what happens in this business until the trade deadline is over. I was ready for everything to happen but also with the main focus on the hockey."
Moments earlier, on a separate video conference call, first-year Sharks general manager Mike Grier made it clear that because of the money Meier sought and San Jose's timeline to compete, keeping the elite winger simply wasn't possible.
"It's never easy or never feels great to have to trade someone like Timo, as talented as he is and as good of a player as he is, but I think there are some realities at play here with the salary cap and the salary structure of our group," Grier told reporters. "I think you guys can see how great of a year he was having, how great of a year Erik [Karlsson] is having and where we still are, results-wise in the standings. So to pay him the money he's looking for and wanted just didn't quite seem to make sense and line up where we are headed as a franchise and where we're at.
"We don't want to keep spinning our wheels here. We're trying to move this forward, and like I said, it's unfortunate that we had to move on from someone like Timo, and wish him all the best and thank him for everything he's done for the organization and the city. But this is something that pushes our group forward."
The Sharks selected Meier No. 9 overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, and by the end of 2016, he already was playing in San Jose, shortly after his 20th birthday.
Leaving the only professional franchise he has ever known isn't easy, but Meier made lasting relationships along the way, and he heard from many of his teammates Sunday night when the trade became official.
"Some guys you've played with for longer, and some maybe just a year or two," Meier told reporters. "Means a lot to hear from them, and definitely had a great time here in San Jose, so that's the tough part, where you have to leave some people where you've made some really good friendships, and it's going to be tough to leave those, but also having a great opportunity in Jersey, and they're all super happy for me to get that opportunity. Lot of great messages, and definitely going to miss my teammates."
Meier helped the Sharks reach the NHL playoffs in his first three seasons, but San Jose hasn't been to the postseason in each of his last three campaigns. They're 18-30-12 entering Tuesday's game against the Montreal Canadiens, so a fourth consecutive seasons without a playoff spot is all but assured.
The Sharks have the fourth-fewest points in the NHL and are in contention to land the No. 1 overall draft pick, which likely would land them a franchise-altering talent in Connor Bedard. The Devils, on the other hand, are second in the Metropolitan Division with a 39-15-5 record. While New Jersey is headed for the playoffs, their success isn't something Meier had spent much time thinking about before the trade.
"Honestly, I haven't even thought about that really, with so many things going on today," Meier said. "But I'm a very competitive guy, and I want to win. I wanted to win in San Jose. Obviously, we haven't been doing great, but I hate losing. I'm going to be joining a team that's been winning more, so I'm going to try to help them continue that, so yeah, that's how I am.
"I hate losing. I'm looking forward to facing new challenges with my new team, and get to work and have some fun."
RELATED: How Meier trade from Sharks to Devils happened, per LeBrun
Meier, who finishes his Sharks career with 154 goals and 162 assists, now has a chance to win and play in meaningful games, while San Jose will look to develop the young players they added to the organization.
It's a bittersweet day for all involved, with the end of a fruitful relationship. But the split between Meier and the Sharks was inevitable, based on everything that was said Sunday. Now the goal for both sides is to move on and hope for the best.