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Avalanche acquire Merkley, Nieto from Sharks

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The Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Ryan Merkley and forward Matt Nieto from the San Jose Sharks for forward Martin Kaut and defenseman Jacob MacDonald on Wednesday.

Merkley, a 2018 first-round pick, requested a trade earlier this month, according to Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli. He's scored 14 points in 30 games with San Jose's AHL affiliate after playing 39 games in the NHL in 2021-22.

The 22-year-old was a highly touted prospect coming out of junior hockey. He captured OHL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and led OHL blue-liners in assists in 2019 and 2020. Despite his high-end skill, Merkley slipped down the draft board due to perceived off-ice issues.

Merkley struggled in his maiden NHL campaign, tallying one goal and six points in 39 games. His 43% expected goals for ranked last among Sharks defenders, according to Natural Stat Trick. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer and requires waivers beginning next season.

Nieto previously spent four seasons with the Avalanche from 2016-20, where he potted a career-high 15 goals in 2017-18. The 30-year-old winger is sixth among Sharks forwards this season in average time on ice at 15:39. He has eight goals and 15 points through 45 contests. The pending unrestricted free agent has a cap hit of $850,000.

Kaut was drafted five spots ahead of Merkley in 2018. The 23-year-old winger has struggled to make an impact at the NHL level, tallying just three points in 27 games with the Avalanche this season. Kaut cleared waivers earlier this season and is set to become a restricted free agent following the 2022-23 campaign.

MacDonald ranked second-last on Colorado in average time on ice at 8:40. The 29-year-old was tasked with lining up at forward occasionally due to the Avalanche's injury woes. In 33 games, he tallied two assists with Colorado. MacDonald is signed through 2023-24 at a $762,500 cap hit.

MacDonald will join the Sharks on the road in Carolina, while Kaut will report to San Jose's AHL affiliate, according to Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka.

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