Devils secure star forward Timo Meier in trade with Sharks

The New Jersey Devils acquired star forward Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night in a complicated deal that includes a mix of players, prospects and draft picks going both ways.

Meier will be a restricted free agent with a $10 million qualifying offer this offseason. The trade to New Jersey does not include a contract extension, as the Devils plan to use Meier in the short term and then explore the possibility of a long-term deal later on.

Along with Meier, the Devils added left wing Timur Ibragimov, defensemen Scott Harrington and Santeri Hatakka, goaltender Zachary Emond as well as a fifth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

The Sharks received New Jersey's first-round pick in this year's draft, which is conditional; defensemen Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk; forwards Andreas Johnsson and Fabian Zetterlund; and second- and seventh-round selections in next year's draft, though the former is also conditional. And San Jose will also retain 50% of Meier's current salary as part of the deal.

Mukhamadullin, 21, was one of New Jersey's three first-round picks in the 2020 draft, joining Dawson Mercer, who is a regular at the NHL level for the Devils, and Alexander Holtz, who is regarded as the team's best offensive prospect.

Mukhamadullin, at 6-foot-4 and 193 pounds, has starred in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, and the plan -- before the deal -- was for him to join the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, New York, when the KHL season wrapped up.

"We really like the player," Grier said of Mukhamadullin during an online media availability. "You don't find many 6-4 [defensemen] who are mobile, and who can defend, but also add some offense. We just think there's tons and tons of upside in this kid. He's just starting to figure out what he is as a player."

Meier has 31 goals and 52 points on a rebuilding club that was playing out the string. He was held out of San Jose's practice by coach David Quinn on Feb. 19 because of an upper body injury and has not played since.

"Everyone around here is aware of what Timo can bring to the table," Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said during an online media availability.

The Devils, who have made the playoffs just once since 2012 and underwent a major rebuild in recent years, are a year ahead of schedule, general manager Tom Fitzgerald told ESPN last month. With 83 points in 59 games, the Devils entered Sunday in second place in the Metropolitan Division, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes.

"We're going to score goals, as you guys know," Fitzgerald said. "I just want the player to feel comfortable, that he understands the system, that he has time to learn it. And then once he feels comfortable -- and knows our system like the back of his hand -- he's just going to play hockey."

According to sources, the Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights were the finalists in the talks for Meier. Those teams were not given permission to speak with Meier's agent, Claude Lemieux, about a potential extension, a source told ESPN.

Acquiring a rental player is against Fitzgerald's typical philosophy of building his teams over the summer, but with the option of agreeing to Meier's qualifying offer, the Devils have control of his status through next season, and during that time, they might be able to secure a long-term deal.

Meier was one of the biggest names available ahead of the March 3 trade deadline because of his age (26) and that aforementioned team control San Jose could sell to potential suitors.

"Everyone is talking to San Jose about Timo Meier," one rival Eastern Conference front office executive said during the All-Star break. "Everyone is monitoring it."

The All-Star forward was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft. In seven seasons with the Sharks, he topped 20 goals five times and 30 goals three times.

A native of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Meier provides a mix of size and speed; his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame is often found in front of the net, but he also has the ability to pick corners from the faceoff dots and can be a high-end partner to an elite puck-moving center.

In New Jersey, Meier will join two former teammates from Team Switzerland in the 2022 World Championships: captain Nico Hischier and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.

Grier is clearly looking toward the future but was steadfast all season in his notion that a Meier deal could wait until the offseason if the right in-season package didn't materialize.

"This is something that kind of pushes our group forward," he said.