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Analyzing the Ryan Merkley trade

February 2, 2023, 6:16 PM ET [3 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The San Jose Sharks traded defenseman Ryan Merkley and forward Matt Nieto to the Colorado Avalanche last week, in exchange for forward Martin Kaut and defenseman Jacob MacDonald.

Merkley is 22 years old and was originally selected 21st overall by the Sharks in 2018. Upon being drafted, there were reasons for Sharks' fans to be excited about the defender, given his offensive skillset and high ceiling.

Recently though, we knew Merkley’s time in San Jose was coming to an end, given he had requested a trade. He had spent 39 games in the NHL last season, registering six points, but never managed to solidify himself as a full-time NHLer. This season, he was back in the AHL, where he managed 14 points in 30 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.

As for Nieto, who went back to Avalanche from the Sharks yet again, he was in the final year of his current contract and had spent the last three seasons with the Sharks. This season, he scored eight goals and 15 points in 45 games.

In terms of the Sharks’ return, it was minimal, but that’s not unexpected. With Kaut, the Sharks got a player who, like Merkley, never really fully worked out. After being selected just five spots ahead of Merkley in 2018, Kaut spent much of the last couple years in the AHL. While he did play the majority of this season with the Avalanche, he wasn’t necessarily an impact player, scoring one goal and three points in 27 NHL games. Now at 23 years old and still not a full-time NHL forward, it seems unlikely he’s going to turn into a major part of the Sharks' future.

With MacDonald, the Sharks got a 29-year-old depth defenseman. After spending the majority of last season in the AHL, MacDonald played 33 games with the Avalanche this season, registering two assists.

Personally, I don’t love the trade, but you couldn’t expect a huge return for Merkley. Given his age and lack of NHL experience, Merkley’s trade value wasn’t overly high. They got back a 23-year-old forward who’s equally as unproven, and exchanged a pretty solid depth forward for a depth defenseman of the same age.

At the same time, Kaut is still young enough that a change of scenery could make the difference and while MacDonald is turning 30 years old this month, he should get a good chance on San Jose’s blue line. Additionally, MacDonald does have another year on his contract at the league minimum.

The Sharks were never going to get much back for Merkley, but it’s still somewhat disappointing to see his tenure in San Jose end this way. It seems like the organization squandered one of their best prospects and a few years after drafting him, aren’t left with much in the way of help for the future.

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