SAN JOSE - One of the big positives that came out of the Sharks' 2018-19 season was the evolution of some of their young players. Timo Meier is, of course, one of the most notable names of that bunch.
The 22-year-old forward just wrapped up a breakout season for Team Teal, just ahead of becoming a restricted free agent this summer. Even though the Sharks have many questions to answer this offseason about keeping all of last season's team together, the future looks to be bright for Meier.
"Keeping everyone together is a challenge of our cap system," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson explained at the team's practice facility last week. "But I think it's one of the reasons why we're so loyal to our own players and young guys who have come up through the system -- they know how we try to treat them."
Getting a second contract done for a young NHLer isn't always easy, as William Nylander's prolonged negotiation with the Toronto Maple Leafs early last season showed. Plus, this offseason is peppered with talented youngsters who can become restricted free agents -- Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, and Brock Boeser, just to name a few -- and contract talks across the league can undoubtedly affect one another. But Wilson is hoping the Sharks' track record of working well with young players and working out multiple deals at once will keep contract talks streamlined.
"We historically have had players who have benefitted playing with really good players who understand to keep a group together, we've done bridge contracts," Wilson explained last week. "I've had conversations with his agent and Timo certainly understands how everybody's been treated, and we'll treat him well."
Meier, who the Sharks selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is coming off an impressive campaign where he nearly doubled his points total from the previous season. The Swiss product ranked fourth on the team with 66 points, and tied for third on the team with 30 goals. He established himself early in the season as a staple on Logan Couture's wing and made his mark by mixing both skill and strength to muscle around his opponents and score.
The perfect example of that combination? Meier's back-handed goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
When asked about his next contract at last week's locker cleanout, Meier admitted he had tried to focus on his play while the Sharks were in the hunt for a Stanley Cup this past season. Now, with a reasonably healthy 30-goal season under his belt and the Sharks having a bit of wiggle room under the salary cap, Meier could be looking at a nice payday.
With San Jose's summer underway and moves already happening, Meier can look toward the future -- which isn't just about the contract.
"I'm going to talk with the coaches, but I know I can do a lot more," Meier said. "I'm going to try to push myself this summer and get to another level physically. Look over some stuff I did this season, analyze my game and things I know I need to do better -- and help me make the organization better and the team better. Because that's what it's all about, you want to help your team be successful and win a Stanley Cup. That's the main goal."