Top Trades, Landing Spots for Sharks Center Tomas Hertl
Tomas Hertl's future with the San Jose Sharks was a topic of conjecture well before the 27-year-old center reported to training camp last week. On Sept. 17, NHL.com's Tracey Myers observed his unrestricted free agent status next July has already made him the subject of trade rumors.
Myers also reported Hertl has yet to talk new contract with Sharks management but is unconcerned about the situation. He indicated his focus is on playing his best hockey and helping his teammates.
"For me, it doesn't matter because I think I've proven I can be a good player. I've shown I can be a leader, and I just want to do that and not think about my next deal," he said.
On Sept. 23, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said he's had several conversations with Hertl's agent but preferred to keep those "in confidence." He also stated he intends to speak with the center soon.
Hertl reached or exceeded 43 points in four of his eight NHL campaigns, including a career-high 74-point performance in 2018-19. A talented two-way forward who can also skate on the wing, he has a history of knee injuries. Nevertheless, his skills make him an invaluable member of the Sharks' roster core.
The Sharks, however, are a team in transition. Once a Western Conference powerhouse, they have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. They've got $66.5 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23, with most of that in 30-something veterans such as Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Hertl is in the final season of a four-year contract with an average annual value of $5.625 million. He could seek upwards of $8 million per season on his next deal, potentially pricing him out of San Jose next summer. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing only three teams as trade destinations. That limits the number of trade partners for the Sharks unless he's willing to include more teams.
There's no indication Hertl wants to be traded or that the Sharks intend to shop him. However, he'll continue to garner interest on the NHL rumor mill if he remains unsigned leading up to the March 22 trade deadline.
Playoff contenders seeking a versatile forward with his skills could come calling with trade offers. On Sept. 10, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz speculated the Sharks could seek a first-round draft pick and at least one high-profile center or defenseman prospect in return.
Here's a look at five potential destinations for Hertl. Feel free to express your opinion on this topic in the comments section below.
The Boston Bruins' forward depth suffered a serious blow when David Krejci returned to the Czech Republic to finish his playing career this offseason. His departure has left them scrambling to fill the second-line center position Krejci held for years.
The Bruins intend to audition Charlie Coyle as Krejci's replacement. Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now also wrote that 2017 second-round pick Jack Studnicka could see some opportunities. However, he doesn't believe either player can successfully fill that role, suggesting Hertl would be best suited for the job. However, it would mean shedding salary to take on his contract. The Bruins have $1.64 million in cap space and $5.56 million in deadline room.
Haggerty said "there's zero doubt" the Bruins could be interested in Hertl should the Sharks shop him later this season. He suggested they offer up their 2022 first-round pick and Studnicka as part of the deal. Coyle and his $5 million annual cap hit or winger Jake DeBrusk and/or John Moore would have to be included to offset Hertl's $5.625 million.
Hertl's two-way skills would make him a prime fit as the Bruins' second-line center. However, they would be giving up a lot for a potential playoff rental or they could also face cutting salary to pay what would be a hefty raise to keep him off the free-agent market, especially with Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy due new contracts next summer.
That's assuming the Bruins are on Hertl's list of trade destinations. He could prefer staying with a Western Conference club.
Losing Brandon Saad to free agency this summer could send Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic into the trade market at some point this season for a top-six forward. Perhaps he'll target Hertl to provide additional scoring punch to his forward lines.
The Avalanche took home the Presidents' Trophy last season but failed to advance past the second round for the third straight year. They also lost goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Seattle Kraken in free agency, depth forward Joonas Donskoi to the Kraken in the expansion draft and traded defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils.
Sakic moved quickly to replace Grubauer by acquiring Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes. He also signed free-agent defenseman Ryan Murray and could give promising blueliner Bowen Byram more playing time this season. However, Sakic could use a versatile two-way forward to offset the loss of Saad.
Hertl's ability to play center or wing could give the Avalanche's Cup hopes a boost. He can skate at left wing on the second line or supplant Nazem Kadri as their second-line center. He's also a proven playoff performer, with 24 goals and 42 points in 62 playoff games, reaching the Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks in 2016.
The Avalanche lack a first-round pick in the 2022 draft to use as trade bait, but they do possess some promising youngsters in Alex Newhook, Shane Bowers and Justin Barron. With just over $5 million in projected trade deadline cap space, however, Sakic will either have to send a salaried player to the Sharks, convince them to retain part of Hertl's cap hit or make another cost-cutting move.
The Minnesota Wild made promising improvement last season, finishing third in the Honda West Division with 75 points and ninth in the overall standings. Nevertheless, their scoring depth at center is thin beyond first-liner Joel Eriksson Ek. Victor Rask last reached 40 points in 2016-17 with the Carolina Hurricanes, while Ryan Hartman, Frederick Gaudreau and Nico Sturm are checking line forwards.
Hertl would take pressure off Eriksson Ek with his offensive skills and could slot in well with skilled wingers such as Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello and Jordan Greenway, giving the Wild two solid scoring lines.
Wild general manager Bill Guerin might be tempted to pursue Hertl if he becomes available later this season. He could be further motivated if promising young center Marco Rossi fails to crack the lineup or struggles in his rookie campaign.
The Wild possess several good young assets to tempt the Sharks. They include Rossi, left wing Matthew Boldy, defenseman Calen Addison and goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. Guerin, however, might not be keen to part with any of them unless he has a good chance of signing Hertl to a contract extension.
Hertl's $5.625 million cap hit could also be an issue for the Wild. They have $2.3 million in current cap space and $7.9 million in deadline space, but Guerin might need cap flexibility for other moves if necessary. In which case, he could request the Sharks retain part of Hertl's cap hit, though the Wild might also have to sweeten the pot as an enticement.
New York Rangers
A disappointing performance by the promising New York Rangers last season led to a purge in the front office and behind the bench. With Chris Drury taking over as general manager and former Jack Adams Award winner Gerard Gallant hired as head coach, the Rangers will be expected to contend for the playoffs this season.
Hertl could help them achieve that quest. They're set with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider at left wing and Mika Zibanejad as their first-line center but could use an upgrade at center on the second line. Ryan Strome put up good numbers over the last two seasons with 59 and 49 points, respectively, but he lacks Hert's versatility and offensive talent.
Adding Hertl to the second line and shifting Strome down to the third line could give the Rangers considerable depth down the middle. It would also take some pressure off the promising Filip Chytil to fill that third-line spot.
With $9.396 million in cap space and a projected $31.9 million of deadline space, the Rangers can afford Hertl's contract. They also have an impressive pool of promising young players to draw upon for trade bait. 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere isn't going anywhere, but they could consider moving Chytil or perhaps defenseman K'Andre Miller as part of the deal.
The opportunity to play for a team filled with promising youngsters and to skate alongside Panarin in the Big Apple could be tempting for Hertl.
Vegas Golden Knights
Stanley Cup Finalists in their inaugural season of 2017-18, the Vegas Golden Knights have fallen one playoff round short of reaching the Final in each of the last two seasons. Adding Hertl could provide them with the boost to go all the way next spring.
The lack of a No. 1 center contributed to the Golden Knights' inability to advance to the Final. It was also a factor behind their poor power play, sitting 22nd during the regular season with a 17.8 power-play percentage and a postseason-worst 9.3. Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson are their top-two centers, but they both lack Hertl's offensive consistency.
Pursuing an impact player such as Hertl wouldn't be out of character for the Golden Knights. They've made several big moves in recent years, trading for Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and signing Alex Pietrangelo.
Acquiring Hertl won't be easy for the Golden Knights. They're already above the $81.5 million salary cap by $2.75 million, though they'll likely place sidelined winger Alex Tuch on long-term injury reserve until his anticipated return in the new year. They would have to clear cap space before Tuch's return but could get immediate cap relief by sending a player to the Sharks as part of the return.
The Golden Knights could offer up winger Reilly Smith, a pending UFA lacking no-trade protection with a $5 million cap hit. However, they'll probably have to bundle him in a package with future assets to make the Sharks bite. The deal might also have to contain a first-round pick plus a promising young player such as Peyton Krebs, Nolan Patrick or Brendan Brisson.