Just hours after Evander Kane was put on an unconditional waiver by the Sharks with the intention of ending his seven-year $49 million contract, Tomas Hertl zipped a wrist shot past Martin Jones, who will be out this season. It was his 20th goal.
Maybe it was luck. As the Sharks were attempting to rid themselves of an expensive deal the week before, Hertl showed how valuable he still is to the organization.
The question now is whether the Sharks will take the money they will potentially save on Kane’s contract and use it for an offer on Hurtle’s extension.
TSN and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun told Thursday that he expects the Sharks to return to Hertle’s camp next month to talk expansion. If talks go nowhere, attention will turn to the March 21 NHL trade deadline. Hertl’s contract has a modified no-trade clause in which he will accept a trade for only one of the three teams.
Barring a few unexpected, there’s no doubt that Hertl’s next contract will be lucrative, or at least an increase from the four-year, $22.5 million extension he signed with the Sharks in July 2018. He is a top-of-the-line center with size and skill. Plays in all conditions, and is now on his way to surpass his career-high 35 goals set in 2018-19.
This tantalizing combination is the reason why Hertl, a pending unrestricted free agent, is widely regarded as the top target going into trading time frames.
Suddenly, though, the Sharks, it appears, have a less expensive long-term contract on the books and a little more pay-cap space to play for, trying to keep Hertle around that point.
The average annual value of Kane’s deal at NHL level was $7 million, and until a few weeks ago, it appeared that any separation from San Jose was going to be costly for the Sharks.
The best-case scenario might be, from the Sharks’ point of view, to trade Kane and retain half of his cap for the next three seasons, as an off-season buyout left millions dead on the books for the next six years. Will be kept in money.
All of this may have hindered the sharks’ ability to offer Hurtle a competitive contract.
But the Sharks’ management team was given another Christmas present.
Kane is believed to have breached his contract by not returning the Sharks’ AHL colleague until a week later, and by crossing the border from the U.S. into Canada on December 29, breached AHL COVID-19 protocols, leaving what was left of the Sharks. The deal ended last weekend.
Kane and the NHL Players Association are disputing both those findings and filed a complaint last Sunday, which is expected to be heard on an expedited basis by an impartial arbitrator. Earlier this week, the NHL notified all 32 teams that it was looking into the process in which Kane crossed the border and landed in Vancouver.
It’s quite possible that the Sharks and Kane reach a settlement before the case is heard, with the forward being able to recover some of the $22.8 million he was still owed and the cap hit on the Sharks for a long time. decreases in duration.
It’s also possible that the arbiter will reinstate Kane’s contract, putting the sharks back to square one. However, Forbes and TSN legal analyst Eric McRamalla told this news organization late last week that it is unlikely this latest alleged protocol breach was Kane’s second in less than six months.
As of now, the Sharks, per CapFriendly, have salaries of around $63 million among 15 players. The upper limit for the NHL salary cap next season is estimated to be $82.5 million.
New contracts for defenseman Mario Ferraro and forward Jonathan Dahlen will eat up some of that space, as will other banned free agents such as defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov and forward Noah Gregor. Even so, sharks must have plenty of cap space to try to keep the hurtle long, if they want to do so.
If Logan Couture earned an eight-year, $64 million deal from 2009 to 2018 with a .75 points-per-game average, then maybe Hertle, with a .65 points-per-game average from 2013 to 2022, would be in line with them. Some will earn the same number of lines, or a little less.
Whatever the number, at least it appears the Sharks will have a little more flexibility to give Hurtl a great deal if they want to.
“I love Tomas Hertl,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in September. “It has to be one of those things that works for everyone.”