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Grading Sharks' Tomas Hertl deal, other trade deadline moves

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Friday's NHL trade deadline might have been the worst day in San Jose Sharks history.

Not only did the Sharks trade franchise icon Tomas Hertl, they sent him to their most bitter of rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights.

On top of that, Sharks captain Logan Couture announced that his season is over – and he has no idea when he’s coming back, if ever, from his deep groin injury.

However ...

“The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

Here’s why San Jose Hockey Now believes the Sharks did well in the Hertl trade, and in their five other trade deadline deals, and why this could be the beginning of a new day in San Jose.

Tomas Hertl -- Grade: B


The Sharks should never have re-signed Hertl to an eight-year, $65.1 million extension in 2022. Everybody except the Sharks knew that this aging team needed a rebuild. The then 28-year-old center’s timeline, and his desire to win, didn’t really match up to the reality that a reconstruction was in order.

So general manager Mike Grier undid that mistake and misalignment.

In the process, for a player who just crossed 30, Grier got back two premium assets, a very good prospect in 2023 Vegas first-rounder David Edstrom and an unprotected 2025 first-round draft pick.

So that's good valuable piece -- Edstrom projects to be a high-character middle-six center in the future -- for one great player who was wasting the rest of his prime on a rebuilding team.

(I know everybody is expecting that 2025 first to be at the back of the first round, and it most likely will be, but that’s also what the Sharks thought when they gave up their unprotected 2020 first-rounder to the Ottawa Senators in the Erik Karlsson trade)

“Vegas is getting desperate,” an NHL scout from outside the Sharks and Golden Knights organizations told San Jose Hockey Now.

Yes, the retention, $1.3875 million for each of the next six seasons, along with adding 2025 and 2027 third-round picks hurts.

But there was going to be a price for another team to take on the risk associated with Hertl, not just his age, but his history of knee injuries.

Could Hertl defy the aging curve like ex-teammates Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton did? Sure.

Could Hertl hit the wall hard in his 30s, like Marc-Edouard Vlasic has? There’s no way to predict either way.

So the Sharks headed off that not insignificant risk, while taking on, in the big picture, a lot of money cumulatively, but not so much AAV each season, especially if the salary cap goes up as expected. Keep in mind the veteran’s minimum is $762,500 right now and rising.

Meanwhile, the farther in the future that picks go, the less value they have, because they’re easily replaced, especially non-premium picks like a third. So the Sharks likely will have recouped that 2027 third-rounder by the 2027 Draft with ease.

Hertl fits the Golden Knights’ win-now timeline, while Edstrom and the 2025 first-round draft pick fit the Sharks’ rebuild.

This was good value for a likely declining and still expensive asset, even with retention. Remember too how Hertl struggled last season? A little like obtaining value in a trade for Erik Karlsson, who was once thought to have the worst contract in the NHL, acquiring essentially two first-round draft picks for Hertl was a pipe dream this time last year.

On top of that, Hertl has a full No-Movement Clause, so it’s not like the Sharks could trade him just anywhere. This was a team that really wanted Hertl, and paid up for him.

All that said, I understand how much this trade hurts Sharks fans. The 2012 first-round draft pick, as the youngest remaining star from the golden age of Sharks hockey, was the best chance to carry on the torch from Marleau, Thornton and Pavelski.

It’s likely going to an entirely brand-new cast of faces leading the Sharks into the playoffs again one day.

That one of the most popular players in franchise history was dealt while still in his prime, and to the Golden Knights, of all teams, I know also brings about a host of conflicting feelings.

But as a pure hockey trade?

Five SJHN sources, two NHL scouts, one NHL executive, and two agents all agreed that the Sharks did well to trade Hertl for good value while the going was good.

One source did think that the Sharks could do better for a player of Hertl’s caliber.

Anthony Duclair -- Grade: A


Like Hertl, the 28-year-old Duclair, a pending UFA too, did not fit the Sharks’ timeline.

And while it’s important to keep quality leaders and players like Hertl and Duclair to shepherd your youngsters out of the rebuild, if there’s good value in a trade, like there was for Hertl, and like there was Duclair, you have to consider it and probably take it.

The Sharks still have leaders like Mikael Granlund, Nico Sturm and Mario Ferraro, in part because they couldn’t get good value for them. So they’re not bereft in leadership.

Meanwhile, as popular as Duclair was with the fanbase for his charisma and speed, he’s also a streaky scorer without much game besides his offense. If he’s not scoring, which he wasn’t doing until recently, he’s probably not helping you win.

So acquiring a higher 2024 pick and a quality prospect in 21-year-old Jack Thompson for a player who might leave in the summer is a no-brainer. Thompson projects to be a very good two-way bottom-pairing defenseman.

Kaapo Kahkonen -- Grade: C+


This is a head-scratcher at first, because Vanecek has struggled this season and is done for the year with a lower-body injury, while Kahkonen has been solid for most of this campaign.

But Grier says the goalie market evaporated after the Jake Allen trade, leaving the Sharks with a pending UFA in Kahkonen that they didn’t seem ready to commit to.

Instead, they punted on what to do in net with the 28-year-old Vanecek, who’s signed next year for $3.4 million AAV and was better than the 27-year-old Kahkonen from 2021 to 2023.

Grier says Vanecek is expected to be healthy by next season.

Essentially, they grabbed a cost-controlled goalie for next year who’s been historically better than Kahkonen. The hope is that Vanecek either brings back a solid trade return next season -- he could also set himself apart as the Sharks’ goalie of the immediate future.

Radim Simek -- Grade: A


Pending UFA Simek, 31, had no future in the Sharks organization – he had been with the San Jose Barracuda all season.

So in exchange for taking Kostin’s $2 million cap hit off the Detroit Red Wings’ hands next season, they acquired a solid reclamation project in the 24-year-old power forward.

Kostin enjoyed a breakout 2022-23, scoring 11 goals and 21 points in 57 games with the Edmonton Oilers. While he has slumped this season in the Winged Wheel, this is an all upside, albeit limited at that, gamble for a veteran defender who’s going the wrong way in his career.

Nikita Okhotiuk -- Grade: B-


The Sharks liked Okhotiuk’s physicality, but the 23-year-old defenseman’s puck play was well below-average.

In and out of the Sharks’ lineup, Okhotiuk is young enough to still turn himself into an NHL regular, but it appears that San Jose had seen enough.

Devin Cooley -- Grade: C


The Sharks organization needed some immediate goaltending depth because of Mackenzie Blackwood and Vanecek’s injuries. The 26-year-old career minor leaguer will help provide that, warming Blackwood’s seat in the meanwhile.

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