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RFA Kunin Hopes To Sign Multi-Year Contract With Sharks

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Luke Kunin didn’t start feeling like himself until January.

So even though Kunin managed to play 77 games this season, it took him a little more than a year to recover from the right ACL tear that ended in his 2022-23 campaign in Dec. 2o22.

“I think once the new year kind of came around, the skating got better. The jump was kind of there It takes time, we always talk about it,” Kunin said in his exit interview on Saturday.

While his stats were modest — the gritty forward scored 11 goals and 18 points — he also led the Sharks with a career-high nine fights, forwards with 165 Hits, was a regular penalty killer, and even filled in at center after Tomas Hertl was traded.

After that trade, Kunin was also named alternate captain, along with Mikael Granlund, filling the void left by Hertl and injured captain Logan Couture.

The pending RFA has some shortcomings in his game, but he also brings a lot to the table.

So it’s not surprising that the rebuilding Sharks are hoping to bring him back, which GM Mike Grier alluded to on Saturday.

“Kunny is someone who exemplifies a lot of the things that we’re looking for here, he was someone who was in the battle every night,” Grier said. “We needed more guys doing that.”

Kunin talked about his excitement with being selected to Team USA for the World Championships, the importance of being able to focus on his training and not rehab this summer, and wanting to be a part of the San Jose Sharks’ rebuild.

Kunin, on his recovery from his torn ACL and his season performance: 

I definitely think I took good strides there. I liked the way I finished after having a season like last year, not really playing hockey for a year, and not having a summer to train.

All in all, I was happy with how it finished. There are a lot of things I can get better at. When you’re in this position and the season’s over, everyone is going to look in the mirror and figure out how they can be better, and myself included.

But yeah, I played 77 games this year after last year. I was happy with that.

Kunin, on the importance of having a healthy summer to train:

It’s huge. I was not able to train the way you normally do in a summer. I think everything was very specific to the rehab. Even when I was on the ice, you’re doing puck touches and things like that, I think in the back of your head, you’re still focusing on the lower body.

But like I said, it’d be good for me to get that time in the gym, on the ice with the skills coach and do all of the things I want to do to come back and have a better year.

Kunin, on why he decided to play in the World Championship:

I think you always want to be in the playoffs and playing playoff hockey. I know that’s why we play — I play to win a Stanley Cup — and when your season gets cut short, you have a chance to play on a really good team, and play for my country.

It’s something I don’t take lightly or for granted. It’s a great opportunity to play for a championship and try to win something.

Kunin, on taking up a leadership role on a young San Jose Sharks team:

I feel like I’ve always been a leader. Even without the letter, I haven’t really changed much. Since that happened, I go about my business, try to lead by example, be a good teammate, do all the right things that make a good teammate.

I try to bring the group closer together, try to drag guys into the fight and if you got enough guys that do that, you’re usually going to have success. So my mindset and my approach doesn’t change. I just do what I do and try to be the hardest working and best teammate I can be.

Kunin, on entering a contract year and unrestricted free agency in 2025:

I think I’ll leave that up to [Mike Grier] and my agent to talk through all that stuff. I just want to be here. I want to win. I’ve said that since I’ve gotten here. He brought me in for a reason. I want to be here and help turn this around and get Sharks hockey back to winning, back to the playoffs and competing every night.

Absolutely, yeah, [I am open to signing a multi-year deal]. I mean, that’s out of my control. That is up to Grier and what he sees fit and how everything goes on that front. I kind of stay out of it. It’s usually the agent and GM and all those guys talking through that stuff. I just play. But I’ve said it all along. I want to be here, I want to help get this ship moving in the right direction. Whether that’s one year or long term, I’m open to all of it.

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