Good-Bye Timo Meier

Timo’s gone, now what?

Well folks, today marks the first day of the Timo Meier-less Sharks. Sure, we all knew it was coming. After all, it felt like everyone in the league was talking about what color sweater Timo would be wearing in March and it wasn’t teal. Still, it’s sad to see it come to reality. Timo was fun to watch even in this terrible Sharks season.

So the trade…I know this bringing out all sorts of emotions in Sharks Territory and they’re not all good.

Headed to New Jersey are Timo Meier (the team is retaining 50% of his salary), defenseman Scott Harrington, forward Timur Ibragimov, defenseman Santeri Hatakka, goaltender Zachary Emond and a 2024 5th round pick.

In return, the Sharks receive forwards Andreas Johnsson and Fabian Zetterlund, defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin and defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk ( spells his last name with an “i” though Elite Prospects spells it with a “y,” I think the “y” is correct but we’ll check on that). The Sharks also receive a 2023 1st round pick (top 2 protected), 2024 1st round pick (conditional) and 2024 7th round pick.

That’s a lot of moving parts, which explains why when the trade initially leaked it took absolutely forever to “officially” complete. (That, and from what Elliott Friedman has reported, the Sharks’ Max Veronneau was supposed to be included but turned out to be injured and that slowed things down.)

But what does it all really mean?

For the New Jersey Devils, it means the team is tossing its chips into the Eastern Conference race.

“I’ll see your Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane and raise you a Timo Meier and Scott, er, Harrington?”

It’s what competitive teams do when they see an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs. Sharks fans around for longer than the past few years remember what that felt like.

No longer in teal

For the Sharks, the biggest piece is obviously Meier. We could discuss at length what San Jose has lost by trading Meier, but the bottom line is the message it sends. Next year probably won’t be any better than this year.

During his media availability, Sharks’ General Manager Mike Grier says this is not a full rebuild. However, it’s hard to see it any other way when you hand off a forward of Timo’s caliber.

The Sharks also retain 50% of Meier’s salary, but that comes off the books this year, so there are no long-term cap implications on that front.

Harrington was Erik Karlsson’s defensive partner after Jaycob Megan was traded, so San Jose will play musical chairs on the top defensive pairing once again. Radim Simek seems to be healthy. He might slot into that sixth d-man spot. Nick Cicek is also an option that’s been used regularly.

Other players included in the Sharks’ side of the trade package are Ibragimov, a 22-year-old forward who played 23 games for the Barracuda last season and had 1 goal and 1 assist. At the start of this season, he was sent to the ECHL and has 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 53 games for the Wichita Thunder. Ibragimov never returned to the AHL.

Defenseman Hatakka played nine games for the Sharks last season and hasn’t cracked the lineup this year. He’s played just eight games with the Barracuda during the 2022-23 season and missed the rest due to injury. The 22-year-old ranked 18th in Fear the Fin’s 25 Under 25 rankings at the end of last season.

Goaltender Emond was in the same boat as Ibragimov, having played last season with the Barracuda (4.48 GAA and .867 save percentage over 12 games) and now down a level in the ECHL. Emond was leapfrogged on the Sharks’ depth chart by several players, including Magnus Chrona, Strauss Mann and Eetu Makiniemi.

Let’s be honest. Except for Meier, these guys were not going to be impact players for the Sharks moving forward. Even Harrington is a piece that can be replaced during free agency this summer if necessary.

Welcome to San Jose

Okay, on to the other side of the trade.

The Sharks received the Devils’ 2023 1st round pick. It’s top two protected, but I think we all know it’s more likely to be in the high 20s than first or second in this year’s draft.

A conditional 2024 2nd round pick turns into a top 10 protected 1st round pick if the Devils reach the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals and Meier plays in at least 50% of the Club’s games. It can also become a 1st round pick if the Devils reach the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals.

In other words, Let’s Go Devils!

If neither of these things happens, the Sharks will receive the Devils’ 2024 2nd round pick.

Tossed in for good measure, a 7th round pick in 2024.

As for the players the Sharks receive in the deal…

Johnsson is a 28-year-old left winger and what you see is what you get. He’s had some time in the league (248 games, 48 goals, 65 assists). Johnsson has only played two games for the Devils this season. If there’s good news, it’s that his best season was 2021-22 when he had 35 points in 71 games. Johnsson is expected to join the Sharks on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. Johnsson was tossed into this deal to make the whole thing work out money-wise for the Devils, so he’s not a key piece. He’s a UFA after this season.

Zetterlund is also expected to join the Sharks on Tuesday.

There’s a little more upside to Zetterlund. He’s 23, so he has a little room to improve his game, and he’s a more consistent NHL player. Zetterlund has played 45 games for the Devils this season and has 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists). He is tough to play against, which is what Grier has prioritized. Some pundits think that playing on a team with a weaker roster may help Zetterlund refine his game. Plus, according to Cap Friendly, he’s an RFA currently playing on a $750,000 deal. It’s a good opportunity for the Sharks to retain his services for little money as the Sharks dig out of cap trouble.

One of the more interesting pieces of the trade is 21-year-old defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin. He was one of The Devils’ 1st round picks in the 2020 draft, selected 20th overall. Most people have labeled him an “intriguing” prospect because he has a potentially high upside. How high depends on who you listen to.

Sean Gentille of The Athletic called him “toolsy” and said, "…Mukhamadullin would be the top prospect in plenty of orgs.”

Meanwhile, Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked Mukhamadullin 68th in his prospects under-23 and said if he had to choose between Mukhamadullin and Devils prospect Alexander Holtz (who was also linked as a potential trade piece in the Meier trade), he’d take Mukhamadullin.

Pronman calls Mukhamadullin a “…long, mobile defenseman with good puck skills and offensive sense. There’s nothing really high-end about his game, but he projects as a quality top-four two-way defenseman in the NHL.”

Over at The Hockey Writers, Alex Chauvancy said, “Mukhamadullin is a bit of a unicorn when it comes to defense prospects. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, he does not play an overly physical game, but that isn’t necessarily what makes him unique.

“It’s rare to see a defenseman create the number of zone entries and exits Mukhamadullin does, and his success rate is quite good too. There are questions about how his defensive shortcomings will translate to the NHL, but there’s no doubting he’s an intriguing prospect.”

Everyone seems to agree that Mukhamadullin has top-four defenseman potential.

Mukhamadullin is wrapping up his season in the KHL and is expected to join the Sharks when his season ends.

The Sharks also received defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk. He’s considered a defensive defenseman and is projected to be a solid 5/6 defenseman in the NHL. The 22-year-old Okhotyuk has played 10 games for the Devils this season and has 15 NHL games in total (3 points, 2 goals, 1 assist).

Feelings on the Meier Trade

The feeling around Sharks Territory is that Grier came out on the losing end of this deal. At best, he broke even. Not great considering Meier was a key trade piece at the deadline for every team.

Personally, I’m not as down on this trade as other people.

In his 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman said there were other offers out there, but no one else offered what New Jersey could. Friedman pointed out that St. Louis had two 1st round picks to offer but the prospect pool was not as deep.

“This gives them a real chance to restock their prospect pool both in terms of draft picks that they’ll get and some of the young players that they’ll get,” Friedman said. “This trade gave them the most of everything that was important to them. Restock the cupboard, get some young players who are a bit closer than draft picks and get some guys who can play in the NHL now. I think that did all of it.”

I also look at who the Sharks got in return. While the team’s prospect pool was not deep, it was much more shallow on the defensive end of things. Grier added two young defensive pieces. Yes, their upsides are not as high as the forward options, but it filled a hole that San Jose desperately needed to fill.

Add that to a certain 1st round pick this year in a deep draft and a potential 1st round pick in 2024 and I like the trade.

What do you think?