Tomáš Hertl is just two years into the eight-year, $65.1 million extension he signed with the San Jose Sharks. Just as important as the lengthy term and large sum of money contained in the deal are the clauses that were also negotiated with former general manager Doug Wilson.
The contract has a full no-move clause before switching to a modified no-trade in 2025, which itself is restricted to just three teams over the following three seasons. Now in his 11th season with the Sharks, Hertl and his wife, Aneta, have two young children. When it came time for a new contract, the popular center wanted a greater hand in navigating how the rest of his career unfolded.
That brings one piece of certainty ahead of the March 8 trade deadline, but there are many other questions involving the Sharks.
“It’s always nice to have control of where you’re going,” Hertl said recently. “You don’t just move (anywhere). I know I worked for this (many) years in my career. Going through injuries. It’s nice to have a lot of control because the first couple of years, you don’t know what can happen.”
The Sharks’ lone All-Star representative manages to bring a smile and his joy to the rink even in one of the franchise’s hardest seasons. Hertl is still a quality player, as he’s on pace to finish with 24 goals and 55 points. He’d be a center target for contending teams and could bring back a nice return for current GM Mike Grier — if his contract wasn’t so restrictive.
Hertl has said that he’ll talk with Grier after the season to gauge the executive’s plans in the coming years and where he fits into them. But the 30-year-old is showing to be a leader to the team’s younger talents. And that’s probably what he’ll be in the coming seasons for the Sharks. Even if he wanted to — and there’s no overriding sense that he does — Grier probably can’t trade him.
There aren’t many teams that could shoehorn in Hertl’s $8.13 million salary cap number, either. Contenders don’t have that kind of space available now. Grier also has only one retained salary slot remaining, because facilitating the trades of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson ate up the other two. He also has Oskar Lindblom and Radim Simek buried in the minors.
But Grier also has plenty of roster players on expiring contracts, most of whom can become unrestricted free agents. That was part of his plan for 2023-24 — the ability to build up the value of some recent acquisitions and then spin them off for assets at the trade deadline. He has eight picks for the 2024 draft, with additional picks in the first and second rounds from dealing Karlsson to Pittsburgh and Timo Meier to New Jersey.
Can he add to that? Let’s look at the players who ought to be on the move and those who will still be calling San Jose home — for this season, anyway.
Trade them if they can
Kaapo Käkhönen, Alexander Barabanov, Anthony Duclair, Calen Addison
Of all their pending UFAs, Kähknen has emerged as arguably their best trade asset. With some potential or probable playoff teams having questions in net, there could be a market for the 27-year-old Finn. Set aside his 6-14-2 record and iffy 3.55 goals-against average. Working behind a Sharks club that’s allowed an NHL-high 35.4 shots per game, Käkhönen has managed a .901 save percentage and saved 5.4 goals above expected, per MoneyPuck. He has a $2.75 million cap hit.
Injury has limited Barabanov to 31 games but the 29-year-old winger can play up and down a lineup while having a manageable $2.5 million cap number. Barabanov was hurt in the loss at Anaheim right before the break, but coach David Quinn didn’t deem it as serious. Duclair, 28, hasn’t had the season the Sharks imagined when they traded for him, but he still has great wheels and can finish when he has time and space.
The Sharks acquired Addison on Nov. 8, as they were in great need of a puck-moving defenseman who could provide a dose of offense and quarterback a power-play unit. The 23-year-old blueliner hasn’t exactly stood out in his three months with the club, but he’s a right-hand shot who is cost-effective at $825,000. All that in a youthful package could be intriguing for a team looking for blue-line depth. Perhaps Grier can get back the fifth-round pick he surrendered along with forward Adam Raska.
Don’t bother asking about them
William Eklund, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Will Smith, Filip Bystedt, Quentin Musty, 2024 first-round pick
If we’re talking absolute untouchables, this year’s upcoming first-round selection, which could be No. 1 overall, is probably the only element that fits the criteria. Even if the Sharks don’t win the lottery, they might get the No. 2 or No. 3 pick as a consolation prize. And since they’re far from a position of playoff contention, they can keep their brightest fresh faces off-limits.
Eklund, 21, has steadily taken on a more forceful role in the offensive end, and his production has perked up lately after some ebbs and flows. Mukhamadullin, 22, was recently promoted from AHL San Jose and already plays a composed game on the back end while being a strong skater carrying a projectable 6-foot-4 frame. Smith, 18, was the No. 4 pick last year after Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli went off the board. The Sharks can try to sign him after what’s been a highly impactful freshman season at Boston College, but there’s a chance that he returns for another year.
Musty, 18, was the Sharks’ next choice after Smith, and while he didn’t make the United States’ gold medal-winning world juniors roster, the power forward from Hamburg, N.Y., has bumped his points per game with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, from 1.47 last season to 1.72. Bystedt, 20, is in his second SHL season with Linkoping. Still among the team’s youngest players, the 6-3 center has 13 points in 35 games. He had three goals in this year’s world juniors.
Probably not moving — but not out of the question
Mario Ferraro, Luke Kunin, Jan Rutta, Jacob MacDonald
The Sharks have Ferraro, their minutes leader, locked up through 2026 at $3.25 million per season. The 25-year-old’s affordability makes him an attractive option for a team looking to fortify its defense with someone who is more than a rental. A contender could potentially have him for three postseasons while bringing San Jose multiple assets in return. But there is reason for San Jose to keep him as a blue-line anchor.
Kunin, who has a $2.75 million cap hit, might be an interesting case when it comes to qualifying him or not in the offseason. Grier could try to get ahead of that by finding a taker for the 26-year-old who plays a greasy, hard-boiled game. The steady Rutta, 33, figures to be more of a keeper, as he’s signed through next season. MacDonald, 30, will be a low-cost UFA in the offseason. The part-timer has filled holes up front and on defense.
Can’t see them moving
Fabian Zetterlund, Mackenzie Blackwood, Henry Thrun, Nikita Okhotiuk, Ty Emberson
San Jose is getting nice value from Zetterlund, a 24-year-old with a grinder’s mentality and a hard shot who has got 14 goals and is signed through next year at $1.45 million AAV. The Sharks would need a capable goalie if they dealt Kähkönen, and his crease-mate Blackwood, 27, has remained healthy while splitting starts. He’s slated to get a pay bump next season, but he’ll still be at a reasonable $2.5 million for a starting netminder.
The Sharks invested a third-round pick in acquiring Thrun after he opted not to sign with Anaheim. The 22-year-old is dealing with an injury, but he was called up in early December and has been working toward securing an every-day role on the blue line. Okhotiuk, 23, and Emberson, 23, are in a similar position as young defensemen. The two can become restricted free agents in the summer, though Okhotiuk is finishing his entry-level deal, and waiver-claim Emberson is on a one-year deal he signed with the New York Rangers.
Should move but probably won’t — or can’t
Mikael Granlund, Nico Sturm, Kyle Burroughs
These three fall into that area of being useful players but they term left on their contracts, so they’re likely not as attractive to other teams as if they might be had they were working on expiring deals.
Despite missing time on two occasions, Granlund remains their second-leading scorer with 29 points in 38 games. He’s also got a $5 million cap number and another year left on his deal. Sturm is a faceoff artist with size who can kill penalties. The 28-year-old could slot in as their fourth-line center next season if everyone is healthy. Grier signed Burroughs, 28, to a three-year deal last summer. His $1.1 million cap hit isn’t prohibitive for a No. 6/7 defenseman that has some snarl and offers a right-hand shot.
Wish they could move but probably can’t
Mike Hoffman, Filip Zadina
These two wingers are on expiring contracts, but their sagging offensive numbers don’t figure to gain much traction on the trade market.
With just eight goals in 49 games, Hoffman has been on a downward path for a few years. The 34-year-old has had more ice time in recent weeks but hasn’t scored in 22 games and simply makes too much ($4.5 million) to drum up interest. The 24-year-old Zadina was a low-risk flier after flaming out in Detroit. Whether or not he can do it, the Czech forward might be wise to re-cast himself as a diligent, tenacious checker who has enough ability to pop in occasional goals from a bottom-six role.
Can’t move, but some sorrow would be felt if they did
Look, Couture isn’t going anywhere. Even if Grier wanted to truly break from the past, the 34-year-old center is on a lifer-type contract with an $8 million cap number, and $20 million still owed in actual salary for the next three years. He’s just beginning to round into form after missing the first half of the season due to persistent pain in his groin and abdominal region. Maybe there will come a time in the future when their captain and second-longest tenured player is a trade possibility, if he welcomes one and gets back toward his old form while time and money peels off his contract. Not now.
Couldn’t move even if they wanted to
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Benning, Kevin Labanc, Justin Bailey, Ryan Carpenter, Givani Smith
Credit must be given to the 36-year-old Vlasic, who wasn’t a distraction during the times when he was scratched by Quinn, and now he has been on quite the surprising goal-scoring run. All five of his goals have come in the last nine games, including scores in three straight before the break. It’s the contract that makes him un-tradable, with two more years left at a $7 million cap number.
Benning’s second season in San Jose has been riddled with injury. The 29-year-old hasn’t played since Dec. 3 and the club is still committed to him through 2026. Labanc, 28, has only two goals and is essentially a part-timer who will be allowed to walk after the season. Bailey, 28, sits three games away from setting a career-high for NHL games in a single season. Carpenter, 33, and Smith, 25, are fellow depth forwards. Of the three, Smith is the only one signed beyond this year.
(Photo of Kaapo Käkhönen: Harry How / Getty Images)