SAN JOSE – After establishing himself as one of the Sharks’ more essential players in the second half of the season and the playoffs, Tomas Hertl probably could have played hardball when it came to his next contract. At the very least, the pending restricted free agent could have waited until Friday to see if a large offer sheet came his way from another organization.
Instead, though, all indications are that Hertl’s two-year, $6 million extension was a painless process. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson deserves credit for that, but Wilson made it clear in a conference call on Thursday that Hertl’s commitment to the organization was to be commended, too.
“For him to step up and say ‘Doug, I want to get this done,’ we got it done very quickly. Tomas gets all the credit for that,” Wilson said. “He advised his agent and they were right on board with seeing how we do things. Very, very pleased and happy for what Tomas did for us.”
Hertl’s contract is nearly identical to Logan Couture’s two-year, $5.75 million bridge deal signed in 2011. Couture continued to improve, and was rewarded with a five-year, $30 million contract in the 2013 offseason. Wilson even admitted that the Sharks will “talk about [Hertl’s] next contract probably in the near future.”
If Hertl can build on what he did in 2015-16, with 21 goals and 46 points, and another six goals and 11 points in the playoffs, he could be in for the same type of payday.
“It’s good for me too because now I get two years to show my best hockey, and show I can play longer here with Sharks,” Hertl said of the contract extension.
Where Hertl lines up next season is to be determined. Although he thrived on the left wing of the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, he could get a shot at centering the third line. When Couture was forced to miss 30 of the first 35 games of the season with a pair of injuries, coach Pete DeBoer tried Hertl in the middle without much success before moving him to the wing full time in early January. He, and the Sharks, took off after that.
Hertl has said all along he doesn’t have a preference where he plays, and kept that tone on Thursday.
“I like both. … It’s coach's call, I’m ready for both,” he said.
Wilson said: “Tomas is a hockey player. Wherever you put him, he’ll play.”
In the meantime, Hertl will continue to recover from a right knee injury suffered late in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. It kept him out for the rest of the series against Pittsburgh.
Fortunately, though, Hertl doesn’t need surgery again on the same knee that he hurt in his rookie year after a run-in with former Kings captain Dustin Brown.
“Knee is [getting] better and better,” said Hertl, who will be returning to the Czech Republic from San Jose shortly. “I don’t need surgery. I’m just every day progressing.”
It could, however, keep him from playing in the World Cup for his home country. Hertl wants to make sure he’s “100 percent” for the NHL regular season, and said: “I don’t want to go to the World Cup [at 80 percent] health.”
Wilson is likely breathing a sigh of relief in hearing that, as Hertl’s importance to the Sharks was magnified when he went out against the Penguins. The Sharks’ top line just wasn’t the same, and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in six games.
At 22 years old, Wilson is hopeful that the affable Hertl’s career is just getting started.
“I don’t think I’m even going to put a limit on him. He just gets better and better,” Wilson said. “When we drafted him, we expected him to be a dominant player, and so does he. He has high expectations for himself, loves to play the game. When you see that smile on his face, it’s contagious.”
Hertl said: “I am for sure happy. … I am really excited for next year here.”