One of the San Jose Sharks’ top forwards is set to hit free agency next season and the decision-making process for whether or not he’ll be part of the team long-term should already be underway within the organization.
Center Tomas Hertl has just one year left on his contract, which pays him an AAV of $5.625 million. But with Hertl already 28 years old, is the best option for the Sharks to re-sign him or try to trade him before his contract expires?
Hertl is coming off scoring 19 goals and 43 points in 50 games, a pace of 31 goals and 71 points per 82 games. Those are pretty great numbers, with Hertl finishing second in the team in both goals and points.
However, the Sharks are not a contending team right now, despite what general manager Doug Wilson might think. San Jose has too much money already tied up in bad contracts to fill in the holes in the rest of the roster, as their core continues to age. Dealing Hertl could be a key step in recouping some of the future assets that the Sharks desperately need.
The fact is, giving out lengthy, overpriced contracts is what has gotten the Sharks into the situation they’re in today. Re-signing Hertl to an expensive contract is only going to eat away at the little cap space they have left and with the salary cap not likely to rise anytime soon, the Sharks would have even less space to try to add the depth they lack anyways.
In turn, moving Hertl while his value is high could be a huge win for the Sharks long-term. He’s coming off a productive season and dealing him to a contender with some salary retained could bring back a return of a first-round pick, a very good prospect and potentially more pieces.
Now, one of the largest issues with dealing Hertl, as is the case with most of San Jose’s top players, would be his no-trade clause. He has a list of just three teams who the Sharks are able to trade him to and if he doesn’t agree to waive the clause, then everything pointed out here is most likely irrelevant.
However, I think it would be a poor decision on management’s part not to consider attempting to deal the forward. The team’s veterans, who eat up a significant chunk of the team’s cap space, have many years left on their respective deals and are only going to continue declining, meanwhile the team doesn’t have the prospect pool to fill in the gaps with cheap, young players around them. The Sharks are in a bad spot and I don't think re-signing Hertl to a more expensive contract as he’s nearing 30 years old is going to help that.
Now, I don’t think we’re likely to see Hertl traded this offseason, based on the fact that Doug Wilson has an entirely different vision for this “very good” hockey team. But if it becomes clear that the Sharks are headed in the wrong direction for a third season in a row, management shouldn’t hesitate to deal Hertl and kickstart a rebuild.
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