Sharks offseason questions: What does free agency hold for Timo Meier?


Sharks offseason questions: What does free agency hold for Timo Meier?

SAN JOSE - One of the big positives that came out of the Sharks' 2018-19 season was the evolution of some of their young players. Timo Meier is, of course, one of the most notable names of that bunch.

The 22-year-old forward just wrapped up a breakout season for Team Teal, just ahead of becoming a restricted free agent this summer. Even though the Sharks have many questions to answer this offseason about keeping all of last season's team together, the future looks to be bright for Meier.

"Keeping everyone together is a challenge of our cap system," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson explained at the team's practice facility last week. "But I think it’s one of the reasons why we’re so loyal to our own players and young guys who have come up through the system -- they know how we try to treat them."

Getting a second contract done for a young NHLer isn't always easy, as William Nylander's prolonged negotiation with the Toronto Maple Leafs early last season showed. Plus, this offseason is peppered with talented youngsters who can become restricted free agents -- Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, and Brock Boeser, just to name a few -- and contract talks across the league can undoubtedly affect one another. But Wilson is hoping the Sharks' track record of working well with young players and working out multiple deals at once will keep contract talks streamlined.

"We historically have had players who have benefitted playing with really good players who understand to keep a group together, we’ve done bridge contracts," Wilson explained last week. "I’ve had conversations with his agent and Timo certainly understands how everybody’s been treated, and we’ll treat him well."

Meier, who the Sharks selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is coming off an impressive campaign where he nearly doubled his points total from the previous season. The Swiss product ranked fourth on the team with 66 points, and tied for third on the team with 30 goals. He established himself early in the season as a staple on Logan Couture's wing and made his mark by mixing both skill and strength to muscle around his opponents and score.

The perfect example of that combination? Meier's back-handed goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference final. 

When asked about his next contract at last week's locker cleanout, Meier admitted he had tried to focus on his play while the Sharks were in the hunt for a Stanley Cup this past season. Now, with a reasonably healthy 30-goal season under his belt and the Sharks having a bit of wiggle room under the salary cap, Meier could be looking at a nice payday.

[RELATED: Donskoi wants to re-sign with Sharks, but will he be back?]

With San Jose's summer underway and moves already happening, Meier can look toward the future -- which isn't just about the contract.

"I'm going to talk with the coaches, but I know I can do a lot more," Meier said. "I'm going to try to push myself this summer and get to another level physically. Look over some stuff I did this season, analyze my game and things I know I need to do better -- and help me make the organization better and the team better. Because that's what it's all about, you want to help your team be successful and win a Stanley Cup. That's the main goal."

2020 NHL playoffs: Everything Sharks fans need to know when tuning in

2020 NHL playoffs: Everything Sharks fans need to know when tuning in

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs this summer must be a strange experience for Sharks fans.

Sure, it's weird for every hockey fan watching games played in front of empty arenas in the middle of August during a global pandemic. But Sharks fans haven't spent much of the last few years as passive postseason observers, advancing to at least the Western Conference final in two of the four years preceding 2020.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines now that the playoff field has been whittled down to 16 teams. Which should Sharks fans pay attention to? Here's a guide to the postseason for San Jose supporters.

The Villains

Sharks fans' rooting interests in the playoffs can be best described as "Anyone but the Vegas Golden Knights." Not only did San Jose and Vegas square off in the last two postseasons, but the Golden Knights now are coached by former Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer.

You'd have a difficult time convincing teal diehards to root for Chicago in the first round, considering how many times "Chelsea Dagger" played in the Original Six franchise's Western Conference final sweep of the Sharks a decade ago. But when the alternative is seeing the DeBoer-led Golden Knights march toward a Stanley Cup, Sharks fans have an easy choice.

The Familiar Faces

My colleague in content Brian Witt highlighted some of the biggest former Sharks still playing for a Stanley Cup. Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski -- that's still odd to type -- leads the list, but there are quite a few players who once donned teal who are playing for hockey's ultimate prize.

The Eastern Conference could lead to some difficult rooting choices for Sharks fans, though. It's likely that two of the Philadelphia Flyers (Justin Braun), Tampa Bay Lightning (Barclay Goodrow) and Washington Capitals (Brenden Dillon) will square off, and each player still is looking for their first ring.

[RELATED: How Sharks benefit from Rangers winning NHL draft lottery]

The Jokes

Somewhat surprisingly, the NHL really has leaned into the weirdness of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs being played in two buildings -- Edmonton's Rogers Place and Toronto's Scotiabank Arena -- for audiences watching from their couches. There has been a tribute to the "fans" in attendance, a ban on the wave and even multiple appearances from designated hat throwers when a player scores a hat trick.

The NHL had to postpone a playoff game because Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Arena went to five overtimes. Columbus' official account then tweeted this.

The Sharks had some fun with it, too. Collectively commiserating over the playoffs' fundamental strangeness is going to lead to a lot more over the next couple months, even if San Jose isn't a part of the postseason.

Sharks post hilarious tweet during Lightning-Blue Jackets five-OT game

Sharks post hilarious tweet during Lightning-Blue Jackets five-OT game

The Sharks aren't involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But like many hockey fans, they were excited to take in the opening games of four first-round series on Tuesday, all back-to-back starting at noon PT.

So much so that they cleared their calendar.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets played the second of those four games, in what many expected to be a heated matchup after the Blue Jackets memorably upset and swept the Lightning in the first round last year. What they didn't expect, however, was that game going to an incredible fifth overtime and lasting well into the night.

Lightning forward Brayden Point ultimately ended the marathon at the 10:27 mark of the fifth OT, making it the fourth-longest game in NHL playoff history. Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo stopped 85 of the first 87 shots he faced. He couldn't stop the 88th.

[RELATED: How Sharks benefit from Rangers winning NHL draft lottery]

Prior to the conclusion of the second game on Tuesday's slate, the league ultimately decided to move the fourth and final scheduled game between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to 8 a.m. PT on Wednesday morning.

So, thanks to the Lightning and Blue Jackets, the Sharks can watch a full game before Wednesday's boring weekly meeting.

Well, that is unless it goes to a fifth OT.