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What If The Rangers Went All In For Timo Meier?

Don’t read too much into this, it is a thought experiment more than anything else

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL Trade Deadline is next Friday, and the New York Rangers have already done some big shopping in acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko, Niko Mikkola, and Tyler Motte. While the team is expected to make another move, likely a minor move for the bottom six, I can’t help but continue to think of Timo Meier, and what if the Rangers went all in to add him to their roster, and prevented their competition (Carolina and New Jersey) from improving in the process?

This is something that has been rattling in my brain, and more or less this story is me dumping those thoughts out. This is not me posting a clickbait headline of “here’s how the Rangers can get Timo Meier” with a nonsensical offer, and I fully recognize he likely ends up elsewhere. Part of this is also me going in a different direction than the recent discussions about how the Rangers could still acquire Patrick Kane. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.

Meier is an RFA at the end of this year due a $10 million qualifying offer in what will be his final year before hitting unrestricted free agency. He currently has a cap hit of $6 million, a sum that will be smaller closer to deadline day, and even smaller with some salary retention.

Long term the math doesn’t make sense for the Rangers, unless the team gets creative, but it can in the short term of this remaining regular season and playoff run. Part of that could also involve trading him once the season is over to recoup some assets sacrificed in the original trade, a move I could see a few teams attempt to be honest. This essentially is a deal that would be akin to something NBA teams attempt to do in assembling super teams. Hockey is a much different sport than basketball, but I still think Meier to the Rangers is something that is more realistic than you might think.

One major potential motivation for this deal could be ownership and the front office seeing this as a chance at the Rangers making a big swing to seriously bolster one of the best squads they’ve had in recent history in an attempt to end a championship drought that will turn 30 next year. A squad that is likely to change in the next couple of years in a big way because of the salary cap and young players exiting their ELCs and getting what is coming for them, and one overall that has the clock ticking on them.

I’d also be lying if I didn’t see some slight comparisons to the Rangers as they are constructed coming off a conference final where they fell short, and a prior team that also fell short in a different conference final.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Rangers Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers pondered making a big move at the trade deadline during the 2011-12 season, but ultimately couldn’t come to an agreement. The player in question was Rick Nash, and the team made a valiant run to the Eastern Conference Final where they were bested by the New Jersey Devils, in a playoff run that was doomed by the team’s inability to score, the team averaged 2.15 goals per game.

The Rangers did eventually get Nash in the offseason, and he made his debut in January of 2013 after the lockout ended. For a brief period he shared the ice with Marian Gaborik, but it wasn’t for long as the star winger was sent to Columbus in a trade that netted the team a package where the most valuable piece was Derick Brassard.

The Rangers changed coaches after things fizzled out in the postseason vs. the Boston Bruins, and they made a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final in year one under Alain Vigneault. The team had a decent roster, but recognized they needed something more and acquired Martin St. Louis.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Rangers were even better the year after by finishing with the best record in the NHL, and they went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Those two years represented the high point of the Henrik Lundqvist Rangers, a team that did just about everything but win it all.

And so we return to the present, looking at a magnificent roster of talent with far more high-end explosiveness than the 13-14 and 14-15 teams, and I find myself wondering if the Rangers are in the middle of what will be the high point of their current team as constructed. You might be saying that they should be able to get things done, and that this isn’t like that 2011-12 team, and I would mostly agree. The only thing I’d say is that the league overall is more talented, and while this squad is in better shape than last year’s, what’s the harm of trying to go over the top?

At this point in time, here is how the Rangers line up at forward.

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Jimmy Vesey

Artemiy Panarin — Vincent Trocheck — Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexis Lafrenière — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko

Tyler Motte — Jake Leschyshyn — Barclay Goodrow

In totality it is a formidable group, but wouldn’t this be that much better?

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Timo Meier

Artemiy Panarin — Vincent Trocheck — Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexis Lafrenière — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko

Tyler Motte — Barclay Goodrow — Jimmy Vesey

Your immediate thought is... OK what did the Rangers give up? Essentially my thought process is that the Rangers can build a package that the San Jose Sharks full of players who aren’t going to play a significant role for the team this year, next year, or the year after that. General Manager Mike Grier spent a season working in the Rangers front office, and it is possible there are some players that might appeal to him.

I think that other teams can build over the top packages that blow the Rangers’ out of the water, but it isn’t as if the Rangers have nothing. And I think that Grier would know that current roster pieces would be off the table, and would be amendable to working a fair deal.

From an asset management perspective for the Rangers that means that getting Meier, a player that’s got a line of 31-21-52 in 57 games played, on this team for a playoff run would be more valuable in totality than if the Rangers were to keep the assets around that I am hypothetically trading here.

It also hinges on the fact that the assets in question weren’t being utilized by Gerard Gallant, and there’s a chance they won’t be by the next head coach, if a change were to be made in the offseason.

Essentially, it is my thought that next season is going to be one last go big year for the Rangers before they need to think about making some big decisions. And while the team will still have young talent on the roster, 2022-23, and 2023-24 are likely the prime years to try and win a Stanley Cup.

With that said, here’s what the Rangers should be willing to give up.

A draft pick, let’s say their 3rd rounder acquired from Colorado to a team willing to retain half of Meier’s salary in a three-way deal. The Sharks would already be retaining 50 percent, so Meier’s cost to the Rangers would be $1.5 million.

To the Sharks: a 2023 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick, Vitali Kravstov, Zac Jones (No. 2 prospect on The Athletic’s list), Adam Sykora (No. 3 prospect on The Athletic’s list), and Bobby Trivigno.

Considering where the Sharks are at, this package would give value in a couple of different spots for a player they likely aren’t going to keep, and gives them some options for both now and the future.

I fully recognize another team could probably offer a better top prospect, draft pick, and a current roster player, but once again I will remind you this is a thought experiment, and I feel that the Rangers overall have the potential to put together a deal that doesn’t pull from their existing roster.

Kravtsov, although he’s not been given a lot of time this year, is a talented player and could be a decent top-six forward. He’s been worth 1.3 GAR per Evolving Hockey, and a lot that value has been even strength defense. In a consistent environment he’s got the potential to be a meaningful offensive contributor, and is a good buy low candidate.

Jones is a defenseman that has been considered small, even though he’s got the same build as Adam Fox, and is a solid skater with top-four potential. He’s a distributor that can help on the power play, and would be a nice upgrade to the Sharks’ overall defense corps.

Sykora is a very promising left wing prospect with top-six upside that the Rangers would hate to part with but would likely be the compromise to not including Brennan Othmann. As things stand the Rangers already have a ton of LWs, and Sykora being moved in a deal at some point is something I could see happen.

Lastly, Trivigno is an undrafted bottom-six forward who at the NHL level I could see being a Barclay Goodrow lite, a archetype the Sharks are very familiar with. If the Rangers had to add more they probably could with someone like Brett Berard (No. 4 prospect), but all things considered, this deal feels about right without him.

You might be looking at this and saying, wow that’s a lot for a rental forward. And you’d be right. It would be lessened if the team flipped him in the summer to a team interested in signing him long term, but even as a rental I think there’s some value to this team. But even if you take that out of the equation and still feel it is a steep price, to that point I’d say; where do those pieces seemingly fit this year, next, or the year after in a meaningful way? It is possible those pieces could be used in other deals that bolster the roster, but would they be more impactful than deal that would make the forward group look like this?

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Timo Meier

Artemiy Panarin — Vincent Trocheck — Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexis Lafrenière — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko

Tyler Motte — Barclay Goodrow — Jimmy Vesey

Jonny Brodzinski

After all the moves made, the Rangers would have $113,094 in cap space and a roster size of 22 for the remainder of the season.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks. This was something I wanted to get out of my brain, and it would be a creative way for the Rangers to approach the deadline. I fully recognize this is pie in the sky thinking, but I think that you can agree that there’s at least some reality to my line of thinking. Or not, which is perfectly OK too.

The Rangers are a really good team, and one that is still working through some things. The addition of Tarasenko is something that could have a big impact come playoff time, but overall it is fair to say that the team would be smart to try and cram another impact player in to almost create a lineup that is slump proof.

For the final time, and as a point of emphasis, I understand how unlikely all of this is. But I think that most NHL teams are too risk averse, and it would be cool to see teams leverage assets in the attempt of going all in.