The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported internet speculation linked the Senators to the San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl. He didn't put much stock into it, but this might not be the only time the 27-year-old center surfaces in this season's rumor mill.
Hertl is entering the final season of his four-year, $22.5-million contract. A gifted, versatile two-way forward, he's been hampered by injuries throughout his eight-season NHL career. He puts up good numbers when healthy, netting a career-high 74 points in 2018-19 and 43 points in 50 games during last season's shortened schedule.
With Hertl eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer, he could face a difficult decision. The Sharks are overdue for a rebuild. A league investigation into leading scorer Evander Kane's gambling habits plus Kane's strained relationship with several teammates could become an unwelcome distraction that hurts the club's performance.
Hertl's given no indication whether those issues will determine his future plans. However, how much he seeks on his next contract could determine his future in San Jose.
Cap Friendly shows the Sharks with over $66.5 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23. Hertl could command between $7 million and $8 million on the open market next summer. That could price himself out of San Jose unless general manager Doug Wilson finds a way to free up the cap space to sign him.
The Sharks' direction could factor into Hertl's future. Another season outside the playoff picture could convince him to try his luck as a free agent. If he won't commit to an extension, he could be skating with a contender by the trade deadline.