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‘This is a commitment to winning now’: Hertl, Will Talk Extension, Sharks’ Direction

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Tomas Hertl is back!

The popular San Jose Sharks pivot was front and center yesterday evening after signing an eight-year, $65.1 million dollar extension, forgoing free agency in the process.

Here are the highlights of Hertl and Sharks acting GM Joe Will’s media availability yesterday.

Hertl tells us why he re-signed with the Sharks, his confidence in the organization’s long-term direction, and what he did to celebrate his big contract.

Will talked about owner Hasso Plattner’s commitment to winning, the pitch to Tommy, what’s going on with Trade Deadline targets Jake Middleton and Alexander Barabanov, Timo Meier’s future, and how they’re going to get back to the playoffs with Hertl and company.

Tomas Hertl

Hertl, on why he signed now instead of waiting for free agency:

Oh, I cannot lie, it’s been a lot the last month. It was a lot of talking and thinking about everything, especially over the last two weeks. We had great talks with Joe and with the team, and we [know it hasn’t been] easy over the last couple of years, but I think this year we proved that [the Sharks] can play some good hockey.

My heart was always at home and with the Sharks here and I wasn’t really wanting to leave, but you never know because, at the end of the day, it’s business. But I’m really excited to be here, signed for many years, and be a Shark. We talked and I see a big future for me, and I think I can really help the team. We know what we have to do to go back to the playoffs. I don’t think anybody is rebuilding here. We know we need to add a couple of pieces to get there, but I think we already really improved this year.

Hertl, on why the eight-year term and what it means moving forward:

It’s always, [the goal to] sign a nice long contract, be the franchise player, and be the part of the current legacy and with the Sharks and it’s an honor. But at the same time, I know what comes with that.

I’m one of the leaders. I have to carry the team and help make it better, so it’s a challenge for me [from the Sharks]. They want to see me getting better every day and every year, which I think I can do. I can still help win a lot of hockey games and I got a super-nice deal for it.

Hertl, on his confidence in the direction the Sharks are headed:

Yeah, we’ve been talking already this year. It wasn’t easy for us this year. You get through COVID, and then we go through a lot of injuries.

We [knew we needed] a couple more pieces, but I think when we’re healthy, we’re still good players. Burnzie [Brent Burns], Cooch [Logan Couture], Erik [Karlsson], Timo [Meier] are top guys in the NHL. I think so many young guys improved too. You really saw Ecky [William Eklund] early this season, and hopefully he’s going to get to the league and be a big part of our organization. John Leonard is having a big comeback. He started playing down there [in the AHL] and he’s come back up, so there’s a lot of young guys.

All of the guys have shown they can play hockey. With Mario Ferraro, you get one of the best defensive guys in the league and I see a lot of potential.

You still never know at the end of the day because every team’s game is different and it’s hard to be the top team in the league every year for many years. Nobody can really do it. We’ve been here for a lot of years. We had a couple of down years, now I think it’s time to come back and be a playoff team again.

Hertl, on how much his love for the area influenced his decision to sign:

Oh, a lot. I’ve been here nine years. Me and my wife never lived anywhere else. We started dating before I got to the league, so we started actually living together here in the Bay Area. Over the years, we have built a lot of friendships outside hockey.

Everybody always was nice. Fans [were always] supporting me, from day one all the way until now. They are always cheering and I can say nothing bad about where we live and about people at the Sharks organization. From day one they were always nice to me and it started with the teammates.

I [had] some great players like, Jumbo [Joe Thornton], Pavs [Joe Pavelski], Patty [Patrick Marleau]. I could learn from some of the best guys in the game and they helped me out to get to be the player I am right now I really thank them for that. From day one I couldn’t say better about the organization, how they gave me chance right away from the first season. I’m really excited I can keep it going here.

Hertl, on if loyalty helped keep him in teal:

I think so, yeah. I think I’m very loyal and at the end of the day, you feel like you have to give everything back to the organization and back to the fans when they give you the chance.

End of the day, I think I’m a loyal guy. Everybody has tough times. We made it to the Conference Final three years ago and we’ve been in the Finals. You don’t just leave…because of two [bad] years. You want to put it back and you want to give the organization and the fans the playoffs and the winning games back and get back on track.

I see that it can come soon and so for sure that helped me out to decide [to sign].

Hertl, on a turning point in his decision to sign:

I don’t know exactly, but we had good talks with Joe and with the organization about how we move forward because we have been told to have faith [in them], but what do [they] want to do? What is the plan? Because when you lose and miss playoffs two years in a row, some changes can happen. So you just get told what they [want to] do next, and over the years they told me what they expect from me, and what they will do. I think we had good talks, and that helped me to make the decision.

Hertl, on the plan to get back in the playoff picture:

Everybody says, a lot of times, it’s all luck. For sure, we have to get a little bit healthier. When you’re missing top guys, it’s just tough to replace them.

I think the [over the] last couple years, we maybe have had young guys coming in too early. Maybe they were not ready, but it was because the years before we’ve been pushing to win the Cup, so we lost a lot of picks and young guys. Now we get some young guys on the rise. They’ve played better, and hopefully, they can prove it even better next year. So that’s for sure helpful. You’ll see during the summer what happens and what we need, but it’s more for Joe.

Hertl, on how he celebrated his new contract with the team:

Oh, because it was still new, I kind of slowly told some guys. Just told them, I signed here for another couple of years. Everybody congratulated me but there isn’t much time for celebrating [because of the short flight from San Jose to LA], because we have a lot of games moving forward.

With a couple of guys, we just did an escape room at one of LA’s rooms so that was for sure fun.

I already talked to guys about when we get on the road. I think it’s April when we get two days in Nashville, so I’ll probably do some team dinner because you have to give back to teammates and trainers because it’s not just you who gets there. You can’t just get there without your teammates because we play a team sport.

So I thank, not just the players, but all the trainers who helped me through my nine years here because without them you just can’t do it. You need help from everybody and you have to always thank not just your family, but teammates, the organization, and all around the Sharks.

Hertl, on if he’s spoken to Sharks owner Hasso Plattner or Doug Wilson:

Ah, actually I didn’t thank Hasso yet, but I am scheduling to. We have scheduled a call so I will hopefully talk to him soon.

I got a quick call from Doug to thank me and he’s really happy for me.

Joe Will

Will’s opening statement on re-signing Tomas Hertl:

It’s a very special day in Sharks history today with the signing of Tomas, we couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a culmination of a process where a lot of people were involved in and we got to a tremendous position here and we’re able to move forward with this contract.

First and foremost, I have a few recognitions, especially our owner Hasso Plattner, he really paved the way for this to happen. His commitment to returning to winning here, along with his unwavering belief in Tomas [drove] this getting done, and equally to Tomas and his wife Aneta Hertl. Their participation, their belief in this organization, their relationship with teammates and the community made this possible and everything that they’ve done. It’s been a great partnership between the Hertls and the Sharks, and we’re extremely pleased.

It’s really a chance for Tomas to build a legacy here in San Jose. From being drafted 10 years ago in 2012 to now and continuing this process. Lastly, I’d like to also thank Tomas’ agents from Newport Sports. They actually came out here yesterday to just kind of finish this up and go through the final details and they put a lot of work into this Craig Oster, Don Meehan, Robert Spalenka, and Rand Simon. They put a lot into this.

We wouldn’t be in this position had it not been for the hard work of our scouting staff. 10 years ago in the 2012 draft, the late Karel Masopust, Tim Burke, and Shin Larsson followed this player and scouted them and believed in him and we ultimately selected them in the draft at the No. 17 position. It’s been one heck of a pick and we wouldn’t be in this position without the scouting staff. So again, I’d like to recognize and thank them for their tireless work.

Will, on if the San Jose Sharks considered the possible return in trade for Tomas:

We’ve always been committed to signing him to this contract. We didn’t even look at the market really. It wasn’t a give or take, it was fully committed to signing him here because we recognize the importance of a top-line center. And now for a long period of time, we have two of them in Tomas and Logan and that’s our building block right there down the middle. So that was our commitment.

[We do] recognize the market, now’s the time, players are going for picks and prospects, but that’s a different direction for the organization. That’s taking a step backward in building and such.

This is a commitment to winning now. A commitment to pushing forward and, quite frankly, Tomas is a known quantity in that number one center position, along with Logan and they’re extremely hard to get no matter what you have in picks and prospects.

Will, on what’s going on with Jake Middleton:

Well, I don’t comment on any specific players. I will say I’ve talked to every general manager in the league numerous times. You go up and down your roster. You ask about somebody on the other team, they ask about your player, and you go back and forth with it. I’m not going to really comment on anything else outside of that we listen. We listen every year and who knows what’ll happen by Monday? There’s still a long time between now and Monday and we’re going to listen and if the move makes sense for us, I can [do it].

People ask if you’re a buyer or seller, I say we’re a listener. You’re a listener because if it’s a great deal for the franchise, now or the future, you have to weigh it and that’s what we’re looking at.

We’re trying to replenish and get some talent in this roster to help. It’s been a very hard-working roster this year. We have a very talented core. We have some young prospects and the prospect pool has, I think, elevated this season.

Will, on the pitch to Tomas to get him to sign:

Well, it’s not necessarily a pitch. What it is, it’s a lot of transparency. This is a human business and you need to be transparent with the positives. With what you have and what your challenges are, and you have to partner up in that. You have to have some accountability for the process. So being just real honest with what we are and where we’re going.

We feel we’ve made some strides in the area of being a competitive team. In some of our areas such as penalty killing. That’s been good. Blocking shots is some kind of physical commitment that our players have made. What we probably need is a little more scoring, a little more talent to build around.

We think a lot of that’s coming. We’ve held onto our picks in 2020 and 2021. The intention is to do so in 2022, and the prospect pool has really grown.

You go to the external groups that look into that, such as The Athletic and others, and we’ve seen the prospect pool over the past years when it was kind of in the low 20’s. I think we were 14th in one, we were 12th in another. so we’re making progress there.

This season, we’ve had the most rookies in the lineup [in the NHL], I think, at 15. We had the most rookie games at over 300. So we’re not only replenishing the prospect pool, but we’re in that middle group of guys that are even a little more ready. We’re bringing them into the NHL and giving them the opportunity.

Will, on filling the holes around the core:

If you’re able to draft, that’s generally your best way. Then you’re able to use a pick that you’ve earned and get a prospect and develop that prospect. Sometimes it’s quicker, sometimes it takes longer, but that’s generally your best prospect [to win is] to get a player at a value cost. You can kind of grow with them throughout their contract years and, and everything else.

The next best is just to do some good pro scouting, and you’ll go through and find some players on value contracts and make some trades that help out.

That’s what all teams in the league are doing at really all levels, it’s just a constant series of adjustments. So it’s a give and take with the salary cap. It always is. You can’t just collect and build and build on there, you have to maybe trim in an area a little bit more to add in an area that you need a little bit more of and that’s what we work as a staff constantly to identify: Where we’re a little stronger, where we’re a little weaker, and what we can move back and forth to boost those areas.

Will, on if re-signing Hertl accelerates the San Jose Sharks’ “reset”:

Hasso is always committed to any resource that we possibly need to have success here. That’s it, that’s the most important thing. So, we have the financial commitment to sign players here.

The other part is we’ve kept our picks for a few years…we were able to add Eklund and then we were able to come back and get some extra picks a year before in 2020. We have a pool of about six forwards with Eklund, Bordeleau, Gushchin, Coe, Wiesblatt, Robins, and then a defenseman in Gannon Laroque and a goaltender in Benjamin Gaudreau just out of these last two drafts. We have some other players as well, but those eight have had really nice performance trends.

Keeping picks, picking well, and developing them. That’s part of the progress.

I can’t say there’s one particular way that we’re going to move forward, but we’ll use a combination of free agency when we can, trades when we can, and in keeping these picks and using them and developing them.

Will, on if UFAs Barabanov and Cogliano figure into future plans:

I’m not gonna go into specifics on an individual.

The process is take a look at everybody’s contribution. Figure out in this type of market, what that means for a contract moving forward. Then you look internally at alternatives, players you have coming in. And you look externally. Can I make an upgrade here by doing something differently?

I don’t want to tag it to one individual player. That’s really the process with everybody we look at.

The key in that, in a cap situation, is value. Is performance meeting or exceeding compensation? That’s what we need to do as much as we can.

You have to have that trend, the more value you can get out your contracts, your scouting, your prospects, the more success you’re going to have.

Will, on Timo Meier, who’s an RFA after next year:

Well, he’s a huge part of this franchise, and we all know that [he’s a] building block and that is one of the next steps that we have to look at…You have your group that you build around and then you have your group underneath that they kind of fill in some [places].

Obviously, Timo goes into that group with Tomas and others to that you build around.

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