With a lot of focus on the trade deadline, there’s attention on one of the best players available: Timo Meier.
Meier’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Whether in San Jose or elsewhere, whether he accepts his qualifying offer or gets a long-term deal, the winger will get his bag. And he’s not the only pending restricted free agent in for a payday.
That’s what The List focuses on this week: restricted free agents who have pumped up their values and earned raises.
Meier’s one of the most intriguing impending restricted free agents. It’s not a question that he’s going to get a raise, it’s how much of a raise from his current $6 million cap hit and who will be the signing team.
Given the Sharks’ cap situation and current trajectory, moving Meier makes the most sense. Management facing a $10 million qualifying offer for the winger puts pressure on the team to flip him sooner than later. According to The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn’s model, he’d be worth $10.9 million on the open market, but a signing team may hope that a long-term contract could come in below that, possibly closer to the $9 million range.
And yes, he’s worth it. Despite the Sharks’ struggles this season, Meier continues to crush it. San Jose goes from an above-average team in expected goal generation in his minutes with a ton of quality looks right in the quality areas to a team barren of offensive pressure when he’s on the bench. He’s one of the most frequent shooters in the league who can drive play into the zone and create his own scoring chances, with the finishing talent to match.
Meier’s in a similar position to DeBrincat just a few months ago, when the Blackhawks flipped him to the Senators in the offseason. Now, he too is a pending restricted free agent.
Like Meier, DeBrincat has some leverage in his contract situation. His qualifying offer is $9 million. If he’s unsure of whether he wants to stick around in Ottawa, he could simply take a one-year deal at that offer to take him to unrestricted free agency in 2024.
Of course, the Senators probably want to avoid that. Instead, it would make a lot of sense if they tried to solidify him as a key part of their forward core. At what cost is the question — right now, based on his level of play, his market value is on par with his current cap hit of $6.4 million. But that value is behind what he’s actually being paid in salary, at $9 million.
DeBrincat’s goal scoring is down to 1.05 tallies per 60, which trails his last two years. He’s upped his shot generation in all situations, and slightly ticked up his scoring chance creation but just isn’t having much scoring luck at five-on-five. Is it poor shooting luck? Does it have something to do with the team around him?
The idea was for him to be centered by either Josh Norris or Tim Stützle this year, but he’s barely played with either one; Norris has been injured much of the year, and Stützle’s been on the top line. That could be an influencing factor that doesn’t scare off the Senators from paying the 25-year-old, but it’s something to consider when there’s such a high cost associated with this next contract.