Yes, fans are drooling over the possibility that Tomas Hertl could be traded sometime before trade deadline, or hit unrestricted free agency next summer. And fans should be drooling at the possibility.
Hertl has been hampered by injuries throughout his eight-year career with the San Jose Sharks, but when he’s healthy, he is quite possibly a top-20 pivot in the National Hockey League. He’s as effective defensively as he is offensively. He is in the top-10 percentage of NHL players who have an impact on the game both on offense and defense in 5v5 situations.
Last season, Hertl recorded 19 goals and 24 helpers in 50 games for the Sharks. His 5v5 points per 60 were elite level at 2.42 points-per-60. That number was better than the likes of Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares and Mark Scheifele. Based on that alone, if Hertl were to hit the open market, his next contract would start with an eight, that’s far more than the $5.635 million he will earn this season after signing a 4-year, $22.5 million deal back in July 2018.
So, why would Sharks GM Doug Wilson move on from Hertl?
The Sharks have a depleted prospect pool and have to seriously consider some sort of rebuild. They don’t have a second-round pick in what is considered a very deep draft in 2022, having traded it away along with Josef Korenar to the Arizona Coyotes for the signing rights to Adin Hill and a seventh-round pick in 2022.
Wilson also needs to manage his squad’s cap situation. While the Sharks are well positioned for the 2021-2022 season, it is the following season where trouble rears its ugly head. With just 14 players signed for 2022-2023, they have a shade less then $15 million in cap space per CapFriendly.
If Hertl’s next deal does in fact begin with an eight, that leaves Wilson with $7 million to sign eight players. Of course, Wilson could find other ways to move cap, but it must be noted there have been no talks about an extension at this point in time.
There is also the distraction element that needs to be considered. As first reported by Kevin Kurz of the Athletic, Hertl was one of multiple players to complain about Evander Kane during exit meetings at the end of the season. As you are all aware, Kane is under investigation by the NHL for gambling – including on Sharks games.
Then there is Hertl’s comments back home in the Czech Republic: “I wonder if San Jose will want to re-sign me, and if I’ll want to stay there,” Hertl told iDNES.cz. “I don’t want to think about it so it doesn’t negatively affect me. I’ll start the season and see how it turns out.”
Sometimes things get lost in translation. We also don’t get to hear the tone in his voice. And we don’t know if that was an answer to a question and what that question was so, there’s a lot of interpretation happening.
Let’s circle back to the cap and the Sharks prospect pool.
It’s obvious that the Sharks will need to make a cap move in the near future. They also have an aging pair in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson whose contracts are virtually unmovable and no replacements in site for them. With the cloud hanging over Kane, Hertl becomes the logical choice to move on from both in terms of dollars and as a player who can bring the most quality assets back in a trade.
Of course, all this leads to rumors. Hertl has already been linked to the Ottawa Senators, the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres (in a Jack Eichel deal no less) and your Boston Bruins who are seemingly always linked to anyone’s name that is out there.
Hertl to Boston makes sense in so many ways though with the departure of David Krejci and an aging Patrice Bergeron.
The cost to acquire however, is dependent on when. If (and I’m only pointing out scenarios here) there were to be a trade prior to, or early in the season, then the Bruins would need to move out cap space even if the Sharks were willing to retain 50% of Hertl’s cap hit.
But if it were to happen at trade deadline, as it stands today, the Bruins could fit his cap hit in its entirety just by moving a player to the AHL.
What would the cost be? That’s the million question.
When you look at the Sharks prospect pool, they need help at almost every position. Gaining a first round pick in 2022 is essential to them. You’re also adding a player in the deal that can play down the middle, possibly John Beecher or Jack Studnicka. Finally, you’re adding a B-level prospect, something the Bruins have in droves.
That’s a hefty price for a player that could hit the open market and GM Don Sweeney may be reluctant to include a first-round pick in such a deep draft. But there is one final wrinkle.
Hertl has a modified no-trade-clause in which he selects three teams he would accept a deal too. Unless he is willing to waive that clause to go anywhere – where it would become an all-out bidding war, then Wilson’s options are limited and he couldn’t possibly get full value with only three teams bidding.
I liken it to the Oliver Ekman-Larsson situation a year ago when he would only waive his no movement clause for either the Bruins or Vancouver Canucks. Neither Sweeney nor Canucks GM Jim Benning were willing to pay the price and the Coyotes were “stuck” with OEL for another season. Wilson doesn’t have that same luxury however, because of Hertl’s pending unrestricted free agency status while OEL was still under contract and weren’t forced into making a deal they didn’t want too.
One thing we know for sure, watching this play out is going to be a lot of fun. Especially if Hertl submits his three teams and that information gets leaked.