Logan Couture

How Hertl, Couture balance trade rumors with on-ice play 

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The Sharks boast the NHL's worst record (9-29-3) and a young roster that seemingly is years away from contention, raising questions about San Jose's plans for a pair of talented veterans other teams could covet in the trade market.

In an exclusive interview with The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, Sharks captain Logan Couture and the team's leading goal scorer Tomáš Hertl revealed where their state of mind resides as the March 8 NHL trade deadline inches closer.

Hertl has a full no-movement clause, meaning he must approve any trade if San Jose looks to deal him. The 30-year-old forward shared with LeBrun that while he has thought about what lies ahead, his focus remains on helping his younger teammates as much as he can, similar to the assistance he received from a pair of franchise icons during his early years in the league.

"It's not easy losing games after so many years being top of the league," Hertl told LeBrun. "For sure, there's a lot of questions. What is the next step? What is the idea for me? But at the same time, I try not to think about it. I just try to do my best here, and maybe after the season, we'll see what happens.

"During the season, I focus on what I can do in this locker room and all the young guys. I want to help them out just like [Joe Thornton] and [Patrick Marleau] helped me out."

Couture has yet to make his 2023-24 NHL season debut while being sidelined with a lower-body injury. The Sharks captain explained to LeBrun that his return timeline has been complicated to nail down since sustaining the injury.

"It's an injury that could be a couple of weeks or it could be months," Couture told LeBrun. "You never really know. When I first got it, I was really hoping to play the first game of the season. But obviously looking back that wasn't the case. There was no real timeline."

Couture then revealed to LeBrun that his work with San Francisco-based physiotherapist Lisa Giannone significantly impacted his recovery trending in the right direction.

"Working with her got me over the hump," Couture shared with LeBrun. "I've felt really good since then."

The 34-year-old center also told LeBrun that he is not concerned with the upcoming trade deadline, as his priority remains to get back out on the ice after his long hiatus.

"I'm just trying to get back to playing hockey," Couture told LeBrun.

Last week coach David Quinn provided an update on Couture's return, stating he was optimistic the Sharks captain to return to the ice on the team's current road trip that concludes with a matchup against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Jan. 16.

Like Hertl, Couture has some control over his situation because of a modified no-movement clause that allows him to submit a list of three teams he would accept a trade to. The veteran forward explained to LeBrun that Sharks general manager Mike Grier has been straightforward about communicating the direction of the franchise, so San Jose's captain always knows where he stands in regard to any potential roster shakeups that might include him.

"To be quite honest with you, we haven't spoken about that (his playing future) since I got injured," Couture shared with LeBrun in regards of his conversations with Grier. "It's all been about, 'What can we do to get you back feeling healthy in your day-to-day life and then get you back to playing hockey?'

"Griersy is very honest. He's very upfront. His door is always open. But yeah, right now I'm just trying to get back in the lineup."

Couture and Hertl have both spent their entire NHL careers with the Sharks organization, making any potential trade involving either player a tough pill to swallow even as the team shifts towards a new era fueled by the exciting young prospects San Jose is stockpiling.

For now, the focus remains on the present and finding any way to improve the team as they navigate a challenging season.

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