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BREAKING: Merkley, Nieto Traded to Avs



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Ryan Merkley’s time with the San Jose Sharks is over.

Merkley, the Sharks’ 2018 first-round pick, was traded, along with stalwart penalty killer Matt Nieto, to the Colorado Avalanche for their 2018 first-round pick Martin Kaut and depth NHL defenseman Jacob MacDonald.

Both Merkley, the No. 21 pick of the 2018 Draft, and Czech forward Kaut, the No. 16 pick, saw their progress stall in the respective organizations. So much so, Merkley requested a trade in early January, while Kaut passed through waivers unclaimed twice this season. Both players’ entry-level contracts expire after this season.

Offensive defenseman Merkley has accumulated two goals and 42 assists in 93 AHL games, and a goal and five assists in 39 NHL contests. The 22-year-old, however, hasn’t played an NHL contest this season, toiling entirely with San Jose Barracuda.

Merkley’s Offense As Much of a Problem As His Defense

Kaut has been a top-six forward for the Colorado Eagles but failed to stick in a bottom-six role with the Avalanche. The 6-foot-2 winger has 47 goals and 52 assists in 173 AHL appearances, and three goals and three assists in 47 NHL games. The 23-year-old has scored one goal and two assists in 27 games with the Avs this season.

For Colorado, Nieto should be an upgrade over Kaut in a depth role. The 30-year-old has moonlighted as a second-line winger this season, notching eight goals and seven assists in 45 games. He’s not likely to have that job on a deeper Avalanche squad but should be a reliable bottom-six energy forward and penalty killer.

Nieto Making Most of Opportunity on Scoring Line

Nieto also played for the Avs from 2017 to 2020, after, you guessed it, making his NHL debut for the San Jose Sharks in 2013. He signed with San Jose as a UFA in Oct. 2020. So the 10-year NHL veteran has the unusual distinction of having made four NHL stops, but with just two teams. He will be a UFA after this season.

MacDonald is a two-time AHL All-Star Team defenseman, who also has 76 NHL games to his credit. The 29-year-old has zero goals and two assists in 33 games for the Avalanche this season.

The Cornell University product toiled in the ECHL and AHL for four seasons before he earned an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers in Jul. 2018. The next year, the Panthers traded the 6-foot-0 blueliner to the Avalanche for Dominic Toninato, and he’s been part of the Colorado organization since. MacDonald is in the first season of a two-year contract with a $762,500 cap hit.

In all honesty, I’m not sure if Kaut or MacDonald will move the needle much for the San Jose Sharks, but they could be high-end acquisitions for the San Jose Barracuda. With the Sharks well out of the playoff race, I believe GM Mike Grier wants very much for the Barracuda to make the post-season to give top prospects William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau some valuable playoff experience.

The Barracuda are hanging onto the seventh-and-last playoff spot in the Pacific Division, just ahead of the Henderson Silver Knights and Bakersfield Condors.

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