January 31, 2023

The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche traded two former high-profile prospects in a trade late Wednesday — the former sending Ryan Merkley and Matt Nieto across the Rocky Mountains, while Martin Kaut and Jacob MacDonald make their way to the Bay Area.

The move comes less than a month after multiple credible reports suggested Merkley’s camp had requested a trade from the Sharks. Now they get their wish. A fresh start at a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations and injuries that will likely give him opportunities to prove his mettle that were so hard to come by with the team that drafted him.

22-year-old Merkley was a first-round selection for the Sharks in 2018 when the club picked him up with their 21st overall pick. It was a bet on the head. The then 18-year-old had shown so much potential as an attacking defender during his draft year and many respected analysts saw fit to include him in their top 10.

However, it never seemed to come together for Merkley as he rose to professional hockey. He put up good, not-so-good scoring stats with the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL and didn’t quite look the part when NHL opportunities presented themselves.

Kaut, on the other hand, ran the same leg at the American Airlines Center in 2018 just five spots ahead of Merkley, having built an exceptionally strong statistical profile in the Czech Extraliga at just 18 years old.

The Czech forward showed promise early in his post-draft career, but mounting injuries prevented him from fulfilling his potential. With the Avalanche forwards plummeting with injuries this season, it seemed like now was the time for Kaut to show his quality. Instead, he leaves the organization with just three points from 27 games this season and six overall in 46 games.

The hope is that all they need is a change of scenery to get their careers back on track, and it seems their former employers would be happy to do them the favor.

MacDonald isn’t exactly a household name. He will settle into the Sharks organization as a depth. However, Nieto could be of use to an Avalanche group that has suffered from the worst injuries in the NHL this season. And they are also familiar with the player. This helps.

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