Stop overcomplicating Timo Meier, guessing who’s on the 2023-24 Leafs, and the Kings D: Leaflets
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer1 month ago
Welcome back to a Saturday Morning Leafs column that absolutely exists. If you’ve been waiting anxiously all week for a collection of hot takes that didn’t find their way into other TLN posts, good news. Here they are. Let’s get to it.
Timo Meier’s situation isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be
Out of one side of the mouth people are saying that Timo Meier is more like a rental because there is a limited number of teams that can afford his qualifying offer or fit him under their cap next season. And out of the other side of their mouths they are also saying that giving up a first or top prospect for a rental is too damned high. The reality is that there is really good news and Timo Meier is not a rental and paying a first or top prospect as part of the package to get him isn’t too high a price because of that. Paying a first for Vladimir Tarasenko is too high a price and the Rangers removed that option, so let’s look at a good option.
Here’s the thing. At least around these parts (meaning the TLN contributors) we all really like William Nylander. He’s added goal scoring to his game and a lot of talking heads are floating the idea that he is now a $10M AAV player on his next deal. That $10M aligns identical to the qualifying offer of Timo Meier, the guy who presently has two more goals than Willy. (He’s 8 points behind him, but let’s also accept that the cast around Meier is radically different in San Jose too.)
You can probably already see what I’m getting at and it’s a couple of things. First, Timo Meier is very much likely to be valued around his qualifying offer. The Leafs will also want to get William Nylander negotiated this summer. The Leafs would find themselves in a position where they have two very good (dare I say elite?) wingers under their control heading into the 2023-24 and could potentially be fielding offers on whatever one doesn’t fit best with the long term vision of the organization at that point. I think it is also safe to say the Leafs could potentially recoup some of the assets they are spending in the short term to acquire Meier by dealing either Nylander or Meier.
That’s the easy way of looking at it, and it’s been floated frequently about Meier, but maybe less so with the Nylander option considered as well. Heck, if I really want to be a sour pain in the ass, I could say that if both come in at somewhat reasonable cap hits, maybe it’s Marner that is the odd man out, but I’m already certain there are enough people angry at me already, so I never said anything about Marner.
Of course, there is an everyone stays and lives happily together under one roof option. The Leafs have taken giant steps in having a very cheap blueline for 2023-24. Is there potential money to be saved by moving on from an expensive defenseman? What about in goal? The reality is likely that only one of Murray or Samsonov are back in the Leafs crease next season and the next cheap tandem reclamation project will be taking their place. Another cheap goaltender or going with a young blueline goes a long way in keeping Meier around.
The main takeaways with Meier are that the Leafs can bring him in now and have plenty of options for what comes later and what comes later wouldn’t involve seeing a rental walk without the Leafs picking up a return.
I don’t know, it seems so simple when you are sitting on your couch.
Your 2023-24 Toronto Maple Leafs?
Heading into the trade deadline it’s especially difficult to figure out who will be a Leaf next season and given how much influence the playoffs will have on what comes next for the Leafs, it seems very premature to look at who could be on the roster. It’s in that spirit I just want to focus on one particular side of things and that is the cheaper filler options of the Leafs lineup as that is the glue which holds everything together.
Giordano, Sandin, Liljegren, and Timmins cost a combined $4.7M against the cap next season and make up a reasonable bottom four option, especially when you consider that Sandin and Liljegren are bona fide experienced NHLers by next season. That’s not a bad start.
The Leafs will likely have affordable forward options as well. Matthew Knies is likely not going anywhere and will sign with the Leafs, Pontus Holmberg isn’t going to cash in big and will be back on a reasonable cap hit, Nick Robertson is potentially returning for his last cheap provide it year, and Bobby McMann or Joey Anderson seem like reasonable bottom six options as well. The Leafs could very well have 5 of their bottom six forward positions filled for around that same $5M mark that the Leafs depth defense came in at. Of course there are also going to be plenty of Zach Aston-Reese types to round out that group as well, so that leaves the Leafs with the following situation assuming that Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Brodie, and Rielly are all back as well.
Toronto will have around $14.5M to spend on 2 forward vacancies, 1 goaltender vacancy, and up to three reserve positions. It’s becoming clear how the path to getting Bunting re-signed isn’t an issue, nor is the potential interest in bringing in someone like Timo Meier fulltime. The hiccup might be if the Leafs want to continue forward with the Samsonov/Murray tandem rather than swapping one out for a cheaper alternative, but the long story being made short, especially when the cap could potentially be higher than predicted, the Leafs are actually situated quite nicely heading into the 2023-24 season and there is a reason to be looking at players with term right now.
Looking to the Kings blueline for help
While it is entirely possible the Leafs are in on Jakob Chychrun, it’s also very possible that a lot of teams who are in on him are about to be disappointed and he’ll go elsewhere. In the event that’s the case for the Leafs, I humbly suggest looking to the Kings for defensive help, especially since they are likely the team that just added Jakob Chychrun.
The two players that are in potentially on the move, according to Frank Seravalli’s trade target list are Sean Walker and Matt Roy. Even without the graph evidence above, I would have said Matt Roy is the way to go even before the chart and his only drawback is being marginally more expensive of the two and the one that I’d try to keep if I was running the Kings.
It’s a bit of a logjam on the right side of the Kings’ blueline, which is typically a good problem to have. The problem is that neither one of Walker or Roy is really moving Los Angeles in a contending direction, they both have one more year on their contracts, and Jordan Spence is waiting in the wings in AHL Ontario. There is no guarantee that one of them will move, but the Kings have a surplus, and there is room for improvement. The deal may wait until the summer, but it’d be a surprise to see both back in a Kings uniform next season.
There is definitely no rush, unless another trade forces their hand to move salary, but LA is a team to keep an eye on. If they do feel Spence can step in soon, they might be willing to act and with Matt Roy only carrying a $3.15M AAV cap hit for this season and next, he might be the lower trade cost alternative to someone like Jake McCabe.
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