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Jabber Jaws: Kunin & Grier talk trades, qualifying offers

Kunin: “I hope to help in the right way and be a good leader on this team.”

Luke Kunin #11 of the Nashville Predators warms up prior to the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena on April 28, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Ahead of development camp on Tuesday, San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier and newly-acquired forward Luke Kunin spoke to the media about a busy draft weekend and the future of the team. Kunin was acquired on the second day of the draft from the Nashville Predators in exchange for John Leonard and a 2023 third round pick.

Here are the highlights of what they had to say:

Luke Kunin

On being part of the organization: I had a great chat with [Grier], I thought it was very refreshing. I’m very excited about the future, my role in it, and what [Grier] is planning on doing with the organization. It’s exciting for me, and I couldn’t be more excited to play for him. It’s a lot of emotions too, obviously, but I’m excited to be a part of the Sharks organization.

On his role: I see myself as a very versatile player — I can play anywhere in the line-up, produce offensively, but also be reliable in all situations. I hope to help in the right way and be a good leader on this team, and push this team in the right direction to ultimately reach the Stanley Cup.

On how he found out: I was actually in Greece on vacation when I found out. I was headed back to the States and wasn’t really expecting it — I think, you know, as a player, you’re never really expecting it, but it’s always kind of out there, just part of the game. A lot of emotions, obviously, when I had that phone call with Mike. It really excited me and refreshed me. I was very excited after that phone call.

On if he knows any current Sharks players: No, not really, but I hear the guys are awesome just from people around the league who have played there — I’ve heard nothing but great things. I’m really excited to get there and meet the guys and get to work.

On coming to unfamiliar territory: When you get traded there are a lot of unknowns, a lot of things up in the air. Just from my chat with Mike, you know, he was a player too, he’s been through it, and he’s been around the rink — he knows what he’s doing. A lot of emotions, a lot of excitement, but I don’t think that really changes what I need to do in this offseason or what I need to do to prepare to be my best when the season starts.

On last season’s Predators team: I think we were just really physical, we played hard. Everyone kind of bought into their role. We were physical and intense in a way that when we were on, we were really on. I think a lot of teams were talking about that demeanor after games — we gave them no space out there, it was hard, in their face — and I think that’s kind of my style of hockey: a lot of energy, high-paced, physicality, but also being able to play and produce plays. I’m excited to bring that element here.

On his stats, specifically penalty minutes: I know I had a couple of 10-minute penalties, a couple misconducts, things like that. I think I had a few fights as well. Fighting is something I don’t do often, but if I need to do it, I’ll do it. Last year, I think the physicality part of the game was important to me. I like playing physical, I don’t want to be taking any penalties, for sure, but it’s part of the game. I try to be as competitive as I can when I’m out there, but you don’t want to go over that line.

On his opinion of the Sharks when playing against them: That core group has some pretty special players, a ton of talent and skill. You have to be aware when you’re out there with those guys. I’m really excited to be a part of that group and play alongside those guys.

Mike Grier

On hiring Doug Weight: First of all, he’s a high-character person, great guy, tons of leadership skills. We saw someone who’s done player development, been a coach in the NHL, a great player in the NHL, a captain in the NHL, and has been an assistant general manager. He’s been in all parts of the game, he knows the game inside and out, and he’s someone who I think will bring a lot of value to the organization.

Trust and loyalty, someone you can count on when things get hard, it’s very important to me — important to most general managers, too. We went back a long time, he’s treated me well since day one. He was the captain of the Oilers when I came on, and he treated me with great respect and kindness, took me under his wing and our relationship blossomed from there. We’ve stayed close and kept in touch over the years from both our playing and non-playing days. His daughter was one of the flower girls in my wedding. He’s someone I’ve always admired and think the world of.

On Doug Wilson Jr.: First of all, I think he did a tremendous job this weekend during difficult circumstances. He handled himself well, it was a really tough weekend for the organization, but him as well, and he did a great job with the draft and handling the staff through tough times. We just kind of talked about our future going forward, and there are some people I’m interested in for the scouting role, and he himself thought it was time to branch out and find something different. We just had some discussions about the future and decided it was best for both sides.

I think he did a good job with the organization, and I think there are some players here who will hopefully be a key part of turning this around.

On qualifying offers: I think we’ve talked from day one about the team I want to have, the players I want to have. A lot of that was the criteria of the reasons why we made the decisions we made. There’s always cap issues that go into it, but from day one I’ve been clear about the team I want to have.

On players he may be looking at in free agency: We’re always going to look at every possible option to make the team better, so there are definitely some names on there that are intriguing. We’ll do our homework on them and see if they’ll fit.

On characteristics he looks for in players: I think it all starts with competitiveness, and that doesn’t always have to mean they’re the biggest guy in the room. There has to be a high level of competitiveness and hardness, things like that. You’ll probably see more of that coming into the organization.

On Jonathan Dahlen: It kind of goes back to what I said to what I said: there’s a certain type of profile of player in things that we are looking for to make this team molded into the type of team that I’d like it to become. He doesn’t fit the profile right now, and I wish him the best. He had a great season with the Sharks last season, but we knew there would be changes, and he just happened to be one of them.

On Nicolas Meloche: There are a few things that went into the decision that will stay between myself and his agent. Numbers-wise on the back end, and the amount of money we have tied up in the back end, it didn’t make a ton of sense right now.

On Brent Burns: He’s been here a long time, he’s been a great Shark player. I’ll let him lead the way on [possible moves], and we’ll move off his lead. Sure, it will be difficult — he’s been a part of how well this team has done, a face of the franchise — but as a former player myself, as you get older, you want to keep that competitive fire burning, and what keeps it burning is the chase for the cup and winning. It is something where if he says he wants to go somewhere and try to win, I get it. We all play to win, we all play to lift the Cup, and when you get older, you begin to see the end of the line. I would understand if that’s the route he wants to go.

On free agency: It’s more of a wait-and-see thing. We don’t have a ton of money to throw around, so I think some of the teams that do will be pretty aggressive, and we’ll see where the market is, see if we can grab a player here and there.

We’ve had some initial talks with [players who were issued qualifying offers], and they’re still ongoing. We like all three of those players and hope to get something done with them sooner or later.

On Evander Kane: It doesn’t affect me too much. We just have to follow our plan and do what we see is best for the organization and deal with his situation separately. It’ll be in the back of our minds a bit, but it’s kind of out there.


*Lightly edited for clarity.