Devils acquire Timo Meier from Sharks in blockbuster deal

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The New Jersey Devils did what many expected them to do for months, making a big addition up front. They acquired forwards Timo Meier and Timur Ibragimov, defensemen Scott Harrington and Santeri Hatakka, goaltender Zachary Emond, and Colorado’s 2024 fifth-round pick from the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Sharks receive prospect defensemen Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotyuk, forwards Andreas Johnsson and Fabian Zetterlund, a 2023 first-round pick (top-two protected), a conditional 2024 second-round selection, and a 2024 seventh-round selection.

The conditions on the 2024 selection are as follows:

Should New Jersey reach the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals (and Meier plays in at least 50% of Meier’s Club’s Playoff games in 2023) or the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals, New Jersey will transfer its own first-round pick in 2024 NHL Draft to San Jose (top 10 protected), instead of its own second-round pick in 2024 NHL Draft. If New Jersey’s first-round pick in 2024 NHL Draft is a top 10 selection, New Jersey will have the option to instead transfer its own first-round pick in 2025 NHL Draft to San Jose. Should New Jersey transfer its first-round pick in 2024 NHL Draft per the original condition (top-two above in Condition A), New Jersey will instead transfer its own first-round pick in 2025 NHL Draft should they reach the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals.

At the NHL trade deadline, veteran players on expiring contracts are often dealt to contenders for packages of future assets. Usually, those rentals are nearing or over 30, sometimes even in the twilight of their careers. That’s not the case with Meier, who won’t turn 27 until October and is a legitimate first-line star in the prime of his career.

The big winger already has 31 goals this season through 57 games after scoring 35 last season, and he averaged 20 minutes a night for the Sharks. He instantly upgrades the Devils attack, making Jersey an even bigger contender in the treacherous Eastern Division playoff race. Whether he plays with Swiss countryman Nico Hischier or superstar center Jack Hughes, Meier always seemed like the perfect fit for a New Jersey team finally ready to push some chips to the middle of the table.

After years of rebuilding, stockpiling prospects and draft picks, the Devils are a dangerous group despite being one of the youngest in the NHL. Meier’s status as a pending restricted free agent only makes him more valuable to an acquiring team like New Jersey, which could legitimately afford to sign him to a long-term extension.

That extension will be pricey, though. The winger is due a $10M qualifying offer this summer because of how his current contract is structured, and he will have plenty of leverage in negotiations. If he desires to test the open market, he could agree to the qualifying offer for a one-year deal and hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024.

While there were reports for some time that the Devils wouldn’t agree to a deal without an extension in place, it’s still a reasonable bet to grab Meier now and worry about a contract later. The Metropolitan Division has already seen plenty of incoming star power, with Vladimir Tarasenko and Bo Horvat joining the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, respectively, and could see Patrick Kane join the bright lights of Broadway this week. To keep up in the arms race, New Jersey landed its own difference-making forward—one who could be the best of the bunch, at least right now.

Of their other additions, Harrington gives the Devils an experienced depth defender who has spent most of the season in a depth role with San Jose. He’s on a two-way deal and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hatakka got into nine games with the Sharks last season but has missed most of this season due to injury, suiting up just eight times for the AHL’s Barracuda. He has one year left on his entry-level deal. Ibragimov has spent the entire season with ECHL Wichita, picking up 32 points in 52 games, and will be a restricted free agent this summer. Emond has played in just four games for the Thunder and will also be a restricted free agent this summer. Ibragimov’s and Emond’s inclusions are likely just for contract-matching purposes to keep both teams compliant with the 50-contract limit.

As for the Sharks, they add some important pieces for the future with the high draft picks along with Mukhamadullin, the 20th pick in 2020. The 21-year-old is having a strong season in the KHL with 25 points in 67 games and is expected to come to North America as soon as Salavat Yulaev’s season comes to an end so it’s possible San Jose will be able to get him into the system late in the season. Okhotyuk has split the season between New Jersey and AHL Utica. He has played in 10 contests with the Devils plus 20 more for the Comets and could fill the depth defender role that Harrington is vacating. The 22-year-old has one year left on his entry-level deal.

Zetterlund has been a regular most nights for the Devils and has been a good depth scorer, notching 20 points in 45 games despite averaging less than 13 minutes a night. The 23-year-old should get a bigger opportunity with the Sharks following the move, which could boost his value heading into restricted free agency this summer, where he’ll be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. Johnsson’s inclusion is mostly for salary purposes as he’s in the final season of a deal that carries a $3.4M AAV. That cap hit has kept him in the minors for most of the season, where he has 29 points in 36 games with Utica. However, he has 113 points in 248 career NHL contests and could get a shot at regular playing time down the stretch with San Jose to rebuild his value heading into unrestricted free agency for the first time this summer.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic was the first to report that Meier was going to New Jersey. TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie was the first to mention San Jose’s 50% retention. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli first reported Harrington’s inclusion. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first with Johnsson being in the deal along with Okhotyuk. Shayna Goldman of The Athletic first had Zetterlund’s involvement with the 2023 first-round pick. The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta was first with Hatakka’s inclusion.

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