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Are more trades on horizon? San Jose Sharks GM talks Couture, Hertl, UFAs, and when rebuild might end

Are more trades on horizon? San Jose Sharks GM talks Couture, Hertl, UFAs, and when rebuild might end

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier is keeping all of his options open when it comes to potentially trading centers Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl and re-signing pending unrestricted free agent wingers such as Anthony Duclair and Alexander Barabanov.

Reiterating what he discussed last year after he became San Jose’s top hockey executive, Grier said Thursday he would listen if a veteran like Couture or Hertl came to him looking to move to more of a playoff-contending team with the rebuilding Sharks perhaps needing another year or two to become postseason threats.

Grier extended the same courtesy to Norris Trophy winners Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson the last two offseasons, as both sought moves to win-now teams with the Sharks still in a transitional phase. Burns was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in July 2022 and Karlsson was shipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins in August.

Couture and Hertl have both played their entire careers with the Sharks after they were drafted by the organization in 2007 and 2012, respectively. Neither has said they want to be traded.

“From their personality to the leadership to their work ethic and just the general good people that they are, it’s great to have them around,” Grier said of Couture and Hertl. “But like I did when I first got the job, I check in with them a lot and if there ever were to come a time when they felt like they needed or wanted to go somewhere else, it’s definitely something I would listen to and if it made sense for us, I would explore it.

“But as of right now, I’m happy that they’re part of our group.”

Both Couture, 34, or Hertl, 29, might be hard for Grier to move, partly because of the trade restrictions included in their contracts.

Per CapFriendly, Couture, who has four years left on his deal that carries an annual cap hit of $8 million, has a modified no-trade clause in which he would accept a move to one of three teams. Hertl has seven years left on his eight-year, $65.1 million contract, and has a full no-movement clause for this season and next. For the following three seasons, he has a three-team trade list and in 2028-2029 and 2029-2030, he has a 15-team trade list.

Couture has said he wants to be a part of the Sharks’ solution going forward, and told NHL.com last month that, “If I thought it was going to be a five-, six-, seven-year rebuild, then obviously things would change.”

Hertl said Thursday he just wants to concentrate on this season.

“It’s tough. (The roster) is changing a lot and you never know what will happen … so I’m just looking right now for this year,” Hertl said. “I just want to be ready 100% for the season and win with this team. I’m not thinking about what will happen after this year — if they want to trade me or if I want to stay. I am just totally focusing on October 12 for the first game, to be 100% ready and play with this group and turn everything around here.

“If you start looking too (far) ahead and thinking what’s going to happen, it’s messing with your head. I want to turn it around here because this is my home. The same team, organization, and fans give me everything.”

The Sharks have nine pending unrestricted free agents, including forwards Duclair, Barabanov, Kevin Labanc, and Mike Hoffman. Going forward, the retooling Sharks will likely need to balance who can fit in the long term, what they could get in return for each player in a trade, and creating more cap space for the future.

It stands to reason that if the Sharks are out of the playoff race by February, Duclair, 28, and Barabanov, 29, would be sought after by other teams given their past offensive production and relatively modest cap hits. This year, Duclair’s cap hit is $3 million and Barabanov’s is $2.5 million.

“I think we’ve got to look at things realistically,” Sharks center Nico Sturm said. “We have nine guys on expiring contracts, there is going to be more turnover the next couple of years and we all know a rebuild takes a while.”

Grier isn’t closing the door on re-signing either Duclair or Barabanov, who both figure to slot into the Sharks’ top-six forward group this season. As the Sharks bring more young players into the NHL, some veterans will also be needed to lead the way.

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“There’s definitely some merit to thinking about extending those guys and having around here,” Grier said. “We’ll definitely keep an eye on how they fit in with the group and if they’re doing the things that we want them to do culture-wise and being (good) examples.”

Grier said the timeline for coming out of the rebuild will depend, to some degree, on how their young players develop. The Sharks’ top prospects such as Will Smith, Quentin Musty, Filip Bystedt, Kasper Halttunen, and Shakir Mukhamadullin could all be ready for full-time NHL roles in the next one to three seasons, with William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, Henry Thrun and Danil Gushchin already knocking on the door.

“There’s a lot of young players that we’re really excited about,” Grier said. “We don’t want to rush them but when they’re ready, I think that’s kind of when we’ll start looking hopefully to turn the page and start pushing this thing forward and becoming a Stanley Cup contender again.”