Hertl focused on being leader for Sharks, not worried about contract

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CHICAGO — Tomas Hertl has yet to discuss a new contract with the San Jose Sharks but the forward is more concerned about making an impression on the younger members of his team in his contract year.

Hertl said he returned to San Jose a few days ago but hasn’t talked with general manager Doug Wilson. 

“We’ll see when I get there for camp and stuff, we’ll see if we get some talks. If not, I’m not worried,” he said. “I’m just going to play the best hockey and not think about it because if you’re overthinking or [thinking] this is my contract year I have to score goals because it’ll help. 

“For me, it doesn’t matter because I think I’ve proven I can be a good player, I’ve shown I can be a leader and I just want to do that and not think about my next deal.”

Hertl is in the final year of a four-year contract he signed with the Sharks on July 2, 2018. As a potential unrestricted free agent after the season, his name has surfaced in trade rumors.

The 27-year-old said he can put those distractions to the side and be more of a mentor to a Sharks team that has lost pieces of its leadership group in the past few seasons.

“I’m not thinking about what will happen next season, will the Sharks extend me or if they don’t want me there. I’m just going to play my best hockey and help my teammates,” Hertl said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour on Thursday. “We have a lot of young guys, so I want to help them and just show them how ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski showed me how to be in the League, how to be a leader, how to play in the NHL.”

Thornton played 15 seasons with the Sharks, scoring 1,055 points (251 goals, 804 assists) in 1,104 games with them from 2005-2020. He signed a one-year contract with the Florida Panthers on Aug. 13 after playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. Pavelski, who’s entering his third season with the Dallas Stars, scored 761 points (355 goals, 406 assists) in 963 games with the Sharks from 2006-19.

The Sharks have missed the playoffs the past two seasons after going four straight seasons and advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2019 where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in six games.

“So I want to help them, you know? And hopefully I stay healthy and we’ll see how it goes,” Hertl said. “I don’t think [about] if I sign right now or not. I just want to play the best hockey I can, even better than years before and help my team win.”

Hertl, the No. 17 pick for San Jose in the 2012 NHL Draft, has scored 323 points (151 goals, 172 assists) in 503 career games.

In 2018-19, he scored 74 points (35 goals, 39 assists), career highs in each category, in 77 games. His numbers have declined since; Hertl scored 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games in 2019-20 and 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) in 50 games last season with the Sharks.

He had surgery on his left knee on Feb. 3, 2020 after tearing his ACL and MCL against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 29. He missed the rest of that season, which was postponed due to COVID-19 on March 12. He missed two weeks of last season after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Hertl had surgery to repair the posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee on Dec. 31, 2013, after a knee-to-knee collision with Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown on Dec. 19 of that year. He injured his right knee in Game 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins and missed the rest of the series. He had surgery on his sprained right knee on Nov. 22, 2016, after injuring it in a collision with St. Louis Blues forward Jori Lehtera on Nov. 17 of that year.

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