“I just like our group,” Tomas Hertl said last week.
“Everybody’s closing the door, but I think we got a chance.”
Hertl was talking about the San Jose Sharks‘ hopes of making the playoffs this year — but he might as well have been talking about the organization’s chances of re-signing him.
According to Pierre LeBrun, the Sharks wanted to extend the impending UFA over the summer. The 27-year-old, however, was not quick to commit to a team that’s missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
And as Hertl alluded to, most pundits predict his squad will fall short of the post-season for a third straight year, which would be a franchise first.
Essentially, if you want to win, San Jose probably isn’t the place to be. From the long, expensive, and underperforming contracts to a farm system that’s finally clawing its way back to respectability, there’s good reason to believe that the Sharks are just entering their Dark Ages.
That would seem to make Hertl’s path clear, if winning is indeed his priority — the only way is out of San Jose.
That said, Hertl strikes me as a man looking for a reason to believe.
He’s expressed, on multiple occasions, his fondness for the Sharks and the city of San Jose.
“For sure, I love it here. It’s like my second home,” the Sharks’ 2012 first-round pick said in May. “I started playing hockey here. I got 500 games here. San Jose means to me everything. I got a lot of friends around and all this stuff.”
At the outset of training camp, Logan Couture affirmed this: “He loves San Jose. He tells me that all the time, he would love to be here for his entire career. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but we would love to have him.”
The Trade Deadline is on Mar. 21 and the prevailing thought is that the impending UFA could be open to re-signing if the Sharks are in the thick of it — and San Jose will deal him if they’re out of it.
So can the San Jose Sharks give Hertl a reason to believe before then?
That’s a lot of pressure to put on William Eklund — just kidding.
Well, I’m joking not joking. The 18-year-old wunderkind is as good a candidate as anybody in the organization to give Hertl that ray of light that I think he’s looking for.
Hertl has spoken recently about how hard it is to win a championship, citing 40-something ex-teammates like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Even Jumbo and Patty, who have mostly put themselves on competitive teams year after year, are still searching for their first taste from the Stanley Cup.
In short, Hertl appears to value time — he’s in his prime, he’s about to have the power to put himself in a winning situation — and he’s going to get ahead of it.
“For sure, you’re looking for the place where you can win the most. We are here to win,” Hertl said. “Some guys never play in the playoffs. I can’t even imagine because it’s the best of all hockey.
“Nothing is more fun than playing in the playoffs.”
Could that place still be with the San Jose Sharks? The door is closing — but I think Hertl would like to stay. He just needs a reason to.
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