Nothing about Ron Hextall’s career as a general manager in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh indicates that he is willing to do something like this, but a man can dream, right?
It is pretty clear that the Pittsburgh Penguins need a spark right now.
While I still maintain that a lot of their current problems can be fixed by simply getting Kris Letang, Jeff Petry, and Tristan Jarry back in the lineup, they still need more help beyond that. Particularly when it comes to their scoring depth and ability to get something from the bottom half of their lineup.
Earlier this week Hooks looked at some excellent potential options to help round out that depth.
That is the most likely path the Penguins will take for a number of reasons, ranging from the salary cap, to trade assets, to the slow, methodical, and “patient” approach of the general manager.
But let’s just pretend for a second that Ron Hextall ripped a page out of the Jim Rutherford playbook and said “LET’S GET WEIRD!” and did something recklessly aggressive.
With that in mind, let’s talk about Timo Meier.
On the surface, this makes no sense.
Meier is a top-line player and the Penguins are pretty set with top-line players right now. He also is a pending restricted free agent that will require a $10 million qualifying offer this offseason (or a substantial contract extension) while he also carries a $6 million salary cap hit for this season.
He is also really good and the Sharks will not want to just give him away.
All of those facts seem like potential obstacles.
But the only way to overcome an obstacle is to actually try and climb over it.
Here is what stood out to me about the Meier option this week: The reported trade price for him may not be that outrageously high.
NHL insider Frank Seravalli reported this week that the Sharks may not get as much for him as the Chicago Blackhawks were able to get out of the Ottawa Senators for Alex DeBrincat. And if you recall, the Blackhawks did not get a ton in return for DeBrincat, netting only three draft picks, only one of which being in the first-round.
Seravalli speculates that Meier might come at a cheaper price given that DeBrincat still had a full year remaining on his deal before a qualifying offer would be needed and is also three full years younger than Meier.
Assuming that is true, and the argument around it is certainly sound, where else are you going to get a chance to acquire a player this good and this productive for that low of a price in terms of assets and draft capital?
Answer: Probably nowhere.
So why not go for it? You are already all in on this season and future seasons because of the way the Penguins kept their core around, so I am not terribly concerned about losing the draft pick assets. I have made this argument before, but there is not a player picked in the 17-32 range that is going to dramatically impact the Penguins’ future and speed up their inevitable rebuild when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are no longer playing. If that pick can help you compete now while those three are still playing at a high level, you have to do it.
So how would this help the Penguins in the short-term when their biggest need is depth help?
Well, there is more than one way to improve that depth.
You could acquire a depth player, or you could acquire a top-line player that helps push somebody else down the lineup.
The Penguins wouldn’t be better with somebody like Meier skating in their top-six and dropping somebody like a Bryan Rust or Jason Zucker down to the third line? Of course they would be better. It is still adding another impact player to the lineup and helping to balance things out. Y
The question then becomes what do you about the salary cap both this year and next year.
As the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and even the Penguins themselves have shown us over the years, there are always — ALWAYS — ways around that to get the player you want. Retained salary, other trades to shed contracts, getting a third-team involved to eat even more retained salary.
If you really want a player, you can get them.
That does require a level of creativity and aggressiveness that Hextall has never shown, but the options are absolutely there.
There is also the fact that the Penguins have a LOT of money coming off the books after this season.
Zucker (which would again create an opening in the top-six) and Brian Dumoulin being the two biggest.
Is it likely? No. But the Penguins need some juice. A spark. Something bold to shift things in a different direction right now. There is an opportunity to add a bonafide star winger at what could be a laughably cheap price in terms of trade assets and those do not come along very often. Try to take advantage of it when the opportunity presents itself.