In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, Evander Kane sat down with ESPN’s Linda Cohn last Thursday to discuss allegations that he bet on his own games during the 2020-21 season. In other news, Tomas Hertl is making it clear that he isn’t worrying about a possible contract extension right now, and is instead focusing on being the best player and leader for the Sharks for the 2021-22 campaign. Meanwhile, Ryan Merkley is looking to re-establish himself as a top prospect, and Jasper Weatherby, who was expected to return as a senior to North Dakota just a month ago, is now hoping to earn a spot on the Sharks roster out of camp this fall.
Kane Speaks on Allegations
As mentioned, last week Kane sat down with Cohn to answer questions on the very serious allegations that were brought forward by his estranged wife, Anna, earlier this offseason. The 30-year-old denied any wrongdoing, and said he believes the investigation the NHL is conducting will eventually prove that.
“Obviously [the accusations are] incredibly false,” Kane told Cohn. “It’s unfortunate that transpired, and it’s unfortunate that those false allegations were made. I understood the magnitude of them immediately. I know [they’re] not true. I know none of what she was saying was true. I was very confident, comfortable with knowing that I was going to be exonerated and am going to be exonerated of those allegations.”
Kane did admit in the interview that he had a gambling problem that he sought help for, but doubled down on his stance that he has never bet on an NHL game, let alone one that he was participating in. Gambling wasn’t the only thing the two talked about, however. Earlier in the offseason, Kevin Kurz of The Athletic said that several Sharks teammates do not want him back on their team in 2021-22. Cohn brought this up to Kane, who didn’t seem overly concerned by it.
“I really didn’t have a reaction,” Kane said when asked about those reports. “The media does what the media does. Certain members of the media [who] feel that they have an ear in the room or unidentified sources really mean nothing to me.”
While Kane is a great player, proven by his team leading 49 points in 56 games last season, he has turned into a major distraction for the Sharks. It will be interesting to see what, if any, type of action they take regarding him ahead of this upcoming season.
Hertl Not Worried About Contract Negotiations
In recent weeks, there has been trade chatter surrounding Hertl, as it was reported that the 27-year-old was unhappy with the organization. Whether or not that is true remains unknown, but the one confirmed thing is that he will be attending training camp. Given that he has just one season remaining on his contract, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is looking to extend him for the long-term, though Hertl isn’t too worried about his contract situation at the moment.
“We’ll see when I get there for camp and stuff, we’ll see if we get some talks,” Hertl said to NHL.com’s Tracey Myers. “If not, I’m not worried. 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 has spent his entire 503 game career with the Sharks, scoring 151 goals and 323 points. He has really picked up his offensive game in recent seasons, and was very good once again in 2020-21, scoring 19 goals and 43 points in 50 games.
Merkley Not Dwelling on Last Seasons Struggles
Since Merkley was drafted in the first round (21st overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, there have been plenty of questions surrounding him. First was his character, as some scouts reportedly had him on do not draft lists despite the fact he was one of the most talented players in that years group. However, he spent two more seasons in the Ontario Hockey League after being drafted, and had seemingly matured, while his game, particularly at the offensive end, continued to blossom.
The 2020-21 season marked the now 21-year-old Merkley’s first as a pro, and there was much excitement surrounding it, as he was viewed as the Sharks top prospect. However, he really struggled in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda, scoring just one goal and 11 points in 31 games, while recording a plus/minus of minus13. Despite the down year however, he still remains confident about his NHL future. (from ‘Kevin Kurz: Sharks prospect Ryan Merkley begins pivotal season with a positive step — ‘He’s got some stuff to prove” , The Athletic , 09/21/21).
“I believe in Doug (Wilson) and Doug Jr., [assistant general manager] Tim Burke – for sure,” said Merkley. “Those guys took a chance on me and I trust them with everything. I just have to put in my work and wait my time. I believe it will come. I think I’m a good enough hockey player. If I put in the work, the time will come. Just trust them and their process, and believe in them.”
Weatherby Looking to Impress
2021 has been an interesting year for Weatherby, to say the least. The 23-year-old, who was expected to return to North Dakota for his fourth and final year of college just a month ago, instead decided to sign a two-year deal with the Sharks just after their development camp last month, one in which he performed extremely well in (from ‘Curtis Pashelka: This Sharks prospect was all set to be a college senior. Now he’s vying for an NHL job’ , The Mercury News, 09/20/21).
“Opportunity comes at funny times,” Weatherby said. “and sometimes when it knocks, the best thing to do is just go ahead and answer.
While he by no means has a guaranteed spot on the Sharks roster for the 2021-22 season, there is chatter that he has a great shot to make the big club. The 6-foot-3 forward was taken in the fourth-round (102nd overall) in the 2018 draft by the Sharks. In 29 games with North Dakota last season, he scored 14 goals and 24 points.
Season Creeping Up
With Fall just around the corner, the 2021-22 NHL season is set to get underway very soon. It will be interesting to see how the Sharks are able to perform, given their struggles the past two seasons. They certainly have a ton of talented names on their roster, but many of those players have seemed to slow down with age in recent years. Perhaps they are able to turn back the clock and bring their team back to the postseason, but we will have to wait to find out.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.