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."

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

Sharks face 'big test' vs. Hurricanes as they seek third straight win

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks appear to be bouncing back from a dismal start to their season with two wins in a row. But they face new challenges as they continue their homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It's a big test for us," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters during Wednesday's morning skate. "You just look at the analytics. Number one in the league in creating scoring chances off of the rush, in the top two or three of creating offense. They're scoring in bunches. (There are) a lot of different things there you're going to have to deal with -- maybe the best defense corps in the league one through six, and they're getting great goaltending. That's why their record is what it is."

Of course, San Jose is looking to jump on the Canes early, especially since the Sharks are hosting and playing on the tail-end of a back-to-back. They beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in LA on Tuesday night. But when a team is as good as Carolina is, there's a little more to it.

"We just can't beat ourselves," DeBoer said. "We know what they do well. It's exactly like when we play playoff hockey against an opponent. You've got to take away what they do well or not feed what they do well. And at the same time, try to establish our own game. That's something I've talked about since day one."

Multiple Sharks contributed to the team's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the back of the net while Martin Jones stopped 29 of 30 shots that came his way and the penalty kill went a perfect four-for-four. But DeBoer knows his team's overall game still has another level it needs to find.

"We won the last game and I thought we were better defensively," he said. "But we only generated 20 shots, We've got to find a way to start getting a four-line identity where we're harder to play against and spend more time in the other team's end."

[RELATED: Kevin Labanc focused on future during turnaround]

The Hurricanes visit SAP Center with a 6-1-0 overall record on the season and are undefeated through three road contests.

San Jose went 1-0-1 against Carolina last season, tallying their solo win at home 5-1. The Sharks are 20-17-0-3 all-time through 40 games against the Hurricanes.

Sharks' Kevin Labanc focused on future as team continues turnaround

Sharks' Kevin Labanc focused on future as team continues turnaround

SAN JOSE - Like with just about every other player on the Sharks, Kevin Labanc's game is doing an about-face after a rocky start to the 2019-20 season. 

But even with two goals scored in the last two games, there's still another level that Labanc thinks his game can get to. And the best way for him to do that is to keep his focus on the future.

"I think my game's found itself a little bit," Labanc told NBC Sports California. "Last game, I think I definitely could've played better. But it's a learning curve. You just have to bring it every single game and worry about this upcoming game."

That's a pretty on-brand self-assessment from the 23-year-old winger. He isn't one to make excuses or brush off when he doesn't well. He even made fun of himself last year when asked why he's regularly the player that bench boss Peter DeBoer sends to the penalty box to serve the too-many-men penalty. 

But Labanc also isn't one to dwell on his mishaps for too long, which is an important quality for one of the young players San Jose is leaning on to make a jump this season and take on more responsibility. 

"You want to stay in the moment as much as you can in this business," Labanc continued. "If you start worrying about how good or bad you were the game before, it won't help your situation in the present. I'm just focused on tonight, making sure I go out there and do my job and that I can be good on all ends of the rink."

Doing a good job on both ends of the ice is an aspect of Labanc's game that DeBoer wants to see more of. While getting on the scoreboard is important, there are other areas that need to follow suit.

"For me, I measure his game on a lot more than just the production, but obviously that is something that we are counting on," the head coach explained. "I talked to him -- two games ago I thought he was our best player on the ice, in Chicago. Last game, I know he scored but he and I talked (because) I didn't think he had a great game."

This isn't to say DeBoer is completely dissatisfied with where Labanc's game is at right at this early point in the season. "I think, like all goal-scorers, he's a little streaky," DeBoer said. "He's a young guy. He came (into camp) in great shape, I think he's moving well. And he's a product a little bit of our start as a team."

[RELATED: Sharks historically far more successful when scoring first]

For the Sharks as a whole, putting that rough start to the season in the rearview mirror is important with the tough competition they have coming up on their schedule. San Jose closes out a three-game homestand by hosting the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres -- two squads who are dominating the Eastern Conference at this early point in the season. As happy as San Jose might be with how they played over their last couple of games, the focus has to remain on what's ahead of them.

"We're all feeling really good, but it's still a long season though and there are just so many games," Labanc said. "You can't worry about your past success. You have to worry about your future."