In recent days, there has been a lot of chatter about the Detroit Red Wings potentially being a suitor for Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks. It started when Mike Johnson of TSN mentioned Detroit as a possible landing spot for the veteran defenseman, and that idea has since spawned all sorts of thoughts and opinions on social media and sites like this one.
It’s not the craziest idea out there. Sharks general manager Mike Grier recently confirmed that he is listening to offers for the Swedish defenseman to a contending team, and the Red Wings have a legitimate need on the right side of their blue line. It also helps that Karlsson has started this season looking like Bobby Orr; he has 28 points in 19 games this season, which places him in a tie for second in the league behind only Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.
That being said, when looking at the Red Wings’ roster and considering how GM Steve Yzerman has built this team since he took over in the Spring of 2019, it’s clear that Karlsson doesn’t fit the direction Yzerman is taking this team. However, don’t write off the possibility of Detroit and San Jose completing a trade just yet. There’s another player on the Sharks’ roster that could fill a legitimate need for the Red Wings, and he would provide a boost to their lineup for years to come.
That player is Timo Meier.
Meier Brings Skill & Physicality
Since being drafted ninth overall in the 2015 draft, Meier has slowly developed into a bit of a wrecking ball for the Sharks. He struggled to stay afloat in his first season, registering just three goals and six points in 34 games, but he started to take off the following season. By the end of his third season in the NHL, he was a 30-goal scorer, and he added an additional 36 assists for 66 points in 78 games that season.
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He mostly hovered around that range until last season when he truly broke out. In 77 games, he recorded 35 goals and 76 points, just under a point per-game pace while playing with a team that finished with a 32-37-13 record. That point total led the Sharks, with 12 points separating him from the player with the second-most points, Tomas Hertl. 12 goals and 18 of his points came on the power play; if the Sharks were producing offense, chances are that Meier was in on it somehow.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about his stat line from last season is that he also led the Sharks with 162 hits; for reference, Adam Erne led the Red Wings in hits that season with 161, but he recorded just 19 points. While Meier isn’t built like a prototypical power forward (6-foot, 210 pounds), he plays a game that wears down the opponent whether he has the puck or not. While the Red Wings’ defensive play needs to get better, their power play could use another finisher, and they lack an element of physicality among their top six forward group.
This season, the Swiss-native is off to another strong start, posting eight goals and 16 points through the Sharks’ first 19 games. He’s also landed 40 hits while logging just under 20 minutes of ice time per game. While Karlsson continues to (deservedly) get all the headlines, Meier remains as one of the Sharks’ most consistent contributors. If Grier is serious about being open to moving any player not named Hertl, he should receive a ton of interest in Meier.
Why Karlsson Doesn’t Make Sense
With all due respect to the dozens of people who have claimed that Karlsson-to-Detroit makes sense, it simply doesn’t.
At 32 years old, he isn’t the same player that won the Norris Trophy twice and was a finalist two other times. Despite his offensive outburst to start this season, his best days are behind him – that is true of the vast majority of players once they get into their 30s. That is not to say that Karlsson isn’t a good player; if he can continue to be an offensive force on the blue line this season, there should be a few teams that are interested in adding him for their Stanley Cup push. The Red Wings, however, are pushing for the playoffs, not the Stanley Cup, and Karlsson is the type of player teams add when they are one or two pieces away from contending for hockey’s ultimate prize.
The problem with Karlsson’s age mostly comes down to the fact that he still has four years left on his contract at a cap hit of $11.5 million. Even if the Sharks retained half of it, that’s still a $5.75 million cap hit over the next four years for a player that hasn’t played a full 82-game season in eight seasons, and is likely to see his production fall off in the coming years. Make no mistake: his 2022-23 season has been spectacular so far, but his current production is an anomaly based on past results.
As the Red Wings continue to add youth and prospects to their lineup, Karlsson would represent a road block for their many defensive prospects in the system. I don’t claim to know exactly what Yzerman is thinking or intends to do, but I have to think that he did not spend the first phase of this rebuild shedding albatross contracts just to add another one to their books just to maybe make the playoffs this season.
Meier Makes Sense Now & Into the Future
Any team that moves to acquire Meier will have to give up a pretty penny. The Sharks are in the beginning stages of their rebuild, and they need as many future assets as they can get their hands on. Meier should yield plenty of quality future assets, especially considering the team acquiring him will be expecting him to sign a new deal with them.
Meier is on the last year of his contract, and he will be a restricted free agent next summer. That means that the team acquiring him will still hold his rights even if a deal isn’t signed when the free agent market opens up. That being said, given what it will likely cost to acquire the 26-year-old, no team is going to want to give up those assets for a player that wants to sign elsewhere in the offseason. If the Sharks do, in fact, move Meier, expect that trade to be followed up by the announcement of an extension between the player and his new team.
For the Red Wings, this offers some cost assurance. It would more than likely require a prospect like William Wallinder, a first round pick with some protection on it (top-10 protection perhaps) and probably a player like Filip Zadina to get the deal done – maybe even a little bit more. It’s a huge price to pay – and that may ultimately be why the Red Wings don’t make this move at this point in their rebuild – but they would be paying for several quality years from Meier as opposed to maybe a couple more more quality years from Karlsson – and that’s even before determining whether or not this Red Wings team is one Yzerman should add to rather than subtract from.
The Red Wings are absolutely in a spot where they have the assets to make a big splash that helps their team’s playoff push this season. However, if they are going to go that route, it makes way more sense to target a player that just entered his prime as opposed to one who will soon exit his.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.