San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn never played in the NHL but can imagine the type of pressure a marquee player like Timo Meier might be under while they’re in a contract year.

“Why wouldn’t they? I know I would,” Quinn said last week. “It’s human nature and I don’t begrudge (Meier) that at all. Especially at 26. People think just because they put a uniform on that they’re immune to life’s challenges. That’s not how it works.”

If Meier has felt the weight of playing well while the dollar amount and length of his lucrative next contract is still to be determined, it hasn’t shown. Going into Tuesday’s game with the Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks winger has 18 goals in 35 games and is on pace to better his career-high of 35 goals set last season.

In fact, the four best goal-scoring years in Sharks franchise history have come from players who were all about to enter – or were already in – contract years.

Jonathan Cheechoo holds the franchise record for goals in a season with 56 in 2005-06, as he found instant chemistry with Joe Thornton, who was acquired by the Sharks from the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005.

Midway through that season, when he already had 32 goals and 21 assists in 53 games, Cheechoo, per CapFriendly, signed a five-year, $15 million extension.

Owen Nolan and Patrick Marleau are tied for second on the franchise list with 44 goal seasons in 1999-2000 and 2009-2010, respectively. After what would remain Nolan’s most prolific NHL season, he would go on to sign a five-year, $30 million deal in Oct. 2000 after a brief holdout.

Marleau had his career-best 44-goal season 10 years later.

Stripped of the Sharks’ captaincy before the 2009-2010 season, Marleau was in the last year of a two-year, $12.6 million deal. But instead of spurning the Sharks the next offseason, Marleau signed a four-year, $27.6 million extension on June 24, 2010, a week before he could have become an unrestricted free agent.

Marleau, given his production, could have signed for more as a UFA elsewhere.

“You want to be on a winning team, and you want to allow the team to be able to bring in players or to keep players around in order for you to be a successful team and win,” Marleau said after the four-year deal was announced. “I’ve been here for a while now, and I would like to see things through and win a (Stanley) Cup here in San Jose.”

That Cup never materialized but the Sharks would remain competitive throughout the length of Marleau’s deal, which expired just as Joe Pavelski was beginning a five-year, $30 million extension.

SAN JOSE, CA - May 8: San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) waits for a face-off against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE, CA – May 8: San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski (8) waits for a face-off against the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Pavelski had signed the contract in July 2013, a full season before his four-year, $16 million deal was going to expire. All Pavelski went on to do in 2013-14 was score 41 goals, setting a leadership tone in San Jose that would last for the next several seasons.

“Being committed for another six years,” Pavelski said in July 2013, “the commitment level on my part has to repay them for putting their trust in me now.”

Meier, of course, is in the final year of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed with the Sharks in July 2019, and is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer.

Given his productivity over the last four-plus seasons from 2018 to today with 256 points, which ranked 43rd league-wide before Tuesday, Meier is in line for a significant raise over the $6 million average annual value of his current deal.

As of late last week, Meier said there had not been any contract talks between his camp and the Sharks, who are in a much different spot as an organization than they were when Cheechoo, Nolan, Marleau, and Pavelski signed their extensions.

Instead of the win-now mode of those teams, the Sharks remain in something of a rebuild. And the question Sharks general manager Mike Grier faces is whether to re-sign Meier to what will surely be an expensive deal, or trade him for assets and use that money elsewhere.

Re-signing Meier would be a sign from Grier that he believes the sturdy, skilled winger still has several prime seasons ahead of him. Sometimes that works out for the team as it did with Pavelski, and sometimes it does not, as Cheechoo never again scored more than 40 goals.


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