LOS ANGELES — The smile is back.
Yesterday, Tomas Hertl washed his hands of all the speculation about his pending free agency by re-signing with the San Jose Sharks for eight years and $65.1 million dollars.
It hasn’t been an easy season for Hertl, especially during a late January to early March stretch where he went 12 games without a goal.
“This is something that’s been weighing on him, obviously,” Erik Karlsson shared this afternoon. “He’s one of those guys, if you know him, he doesn’t take these things lightly, he cares deeply about being in San Jose, being a part of this organization. So I know that all these things, all these decisions, have had an effect on him personally.”
Head coach Bob Boughner shared his star defenseman’s assessment: “You can see that it was wearing on him. He must have known something was up (laughs) in the last few days. His game and his personality just seemed more relaxed. He’s back.”
Hertl has exploded with three goals and three assists in his last three games, dating back to last Thursday in Los Angeles.
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture was all smiles this afternoon too, radiating a joy that hasn’t been seen around the Sharks a lot recently, especially during that recent late January through early March 2-6-5 stretch that may have taken the team out of the Western Conference playoff hunt. Entering today, San Jose is eight points back of last wild card berth holder Vegas.
Couture revealed that he had dinner with Hertl when they were in LA last week. Over dinner, he tried not to pry but had a good sense that his long-time friend and teammate was returning to the Sharks.
“He was giving me clues the last couple of days what was going on,” Couture offered. “I knew his agents were coming to town, that was about it. I expected it to get done, but you never know for sure.”
That’s about when Boughner knew: “I thought it was a really good sign when I walked out after the game [on Tuesday] and saw [Hertl’s agents] Don Meehan and Craig Oster there.”
Meehan and Oster also represented Boughner during his playing career.
“He loves being in San Jose and loves being a Shark and this is home for him,” Couture said.
Couture says he celebrated Hertl's extension in an escape room yesterday with Tommy, Balcers, Bonino, and Middleton (Burns too but he left early): "We've been going into one in every city on the road. Our record is pretty good."
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 17, 2022
But now, the fun and games are over.
“We’re very fortunate here to have a guy run the team that wants to win in [owner Hasso Plattner],” Karlsson said. “He’s shown ever since he’s been here that he’s dedicated to give the organization every opportunity to spend to the cap and put a good team on the ice.”
There’s a flip side to that: The San Jose Sharks, headed toward three years out of the playoffs, need to reward Plattner’s faith – immediately.
Karlsson knows: “The hard work starts. The onus is gonna be on the guys and this team and the players that are here to take that opportunity and turn it into something good. I’m excited for that whether that’s pressure on us or not, that’s definitely something that I welcome.”
Yesterday, Hertl and San Jose Sharks acting GM Joe Will communicated some of the steps that the organization has to take to return to prominence next season:
“We all know that we got a lot of work to do to get to where we want to get, where we want to go,” Karlsson admitted. “We’re far from there.”
There are genuine signs this season that the San Jose Sharks are actually on the upswing – from Timo Meier’s emergence as an All-Star winger to Karlsson’s return to elite play to an improving farm system – but the team’s depth issues were exposed recently when Karlsson, Mario Ferraro, James Reimer, and others got hurt.
At the same time, the team’s core isn’t getting younger: Four of their six highest-paid players, Couture, Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are older than 30.
Plattner certainly believes – but for how much longer?
“Our owner clearly wants to spend up to the cap and bring in players that want to win and can help us win,” Couture said. “We gotta win games. We can’t keep missing the playoffs.”
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