On the first day of the 2012 Free Agency period, the San Jose Sharks nabbed former Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars right wing Adam Burish to a four-year deal worth $1.8 million per season.
In fact, Burish, who has never scored 20 points in an NHL season, was Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s very first call at 9:01 pacific time on July 1st.
Now one may think making Burish their first call would be an odd move for the Sharks considering his mundane track record, but this move fits in quite well with what the Sharks have done on the first day of free agency.
Last season the Sharks signed veteran journeyman defenseman Jim Vandermeer and veteran center Michal Handzus on the first day.
Two years ago they signed goaltender Antero Niittymaki on July 1.
For whatever reason, the Sharks organization has failed to heavily pursue bigger name free agents, essentially, well, ever. Trying to think for a second here but Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Vincent Damphousse, Teemu Selanne, Bill Guerin, Brian Campbell, Craig Rivet, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley, Brent Burns, all were traded for. Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray, Evgeni Nabokov all drafted by San Jose.
Therefore when thinking of Sharks UFA signings, Burish fits in much more with the San Jose operation. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, if Niittymaki, Vandermeer and Handzus are any indication, this is an operation that simply isn’t working.
San Jose has failed to reach a Stanley Cup final in their history and while optimists will tell you their window is still open, realists will tell you it’s rapidly closing.
And it’s not the time to miss in free agency with a rapidly closing window. The aforementioned signings of Nittymaki, Vandermeer and Handzus have all been clear misses and the Burish signing while just a day old can hardly calm the nerves of hopeful Sharks fans.
When you consider that a contract of $1.8 million annually is typically reserved for that of a third liner (sometimes even a true center or veteran with top-six skills), it is hard not to find the Burish signing odd in both AAV (average annual value) and term (four years).
Burish, a right winger, is listed at smaller dimensions than the Sharks 6’0, 195 pound rookie right wing Tommy Wingels.
Wingels, who many feel is due to make big strides this upcoming season scored nine points in 33 games as a rookie, which was just one point shy of being on pace for the numbers that Burish put up in a career year last season with Dallas.
A career year of 19 points mind you, at 29-years-old. Barring injury, there is little doubt that Wingels will fail to reach over 20 points in a full season next year while he making 775K. Even if he does fail, he is on track for a consistent third line or even second line career.
Burish on the other hand, who is indeed a valuable player and a well liked one with Chicago and Dallas, may never reach over 20 points in a season. In fact, there is a good possibility he doesn’t reach over 20 points in a season.
And when you compare his career path to those who have signed similar free agent deals in the last two season’s, the numbers aren’t even close. Take for example the following players, with their contracts signed recently as free agents.
Jay McClement— two years with Toronto at $1.5 million per season
Steve Sullivan— last season played in Pittsburgh for $1.5 M, scored 48 points in 79 games
Alexei Ponikarovsky—one year with Winnipeg at $1.8 million per season
Brad Boyes—one year with New York Islanders at $1 million
Jordin Tootoo—three years with Detroit at $1.9 million per season
Torrey Mitchell—three years with Minnesota at 1.9 million per season
Joey Crabb— one year with Washington at 950K
Travis Moen—-four years with Montreal at $1.85 million per season
Kyle Wellwood— last year played for 700K in Winnipeg scoring 47 points
Eric Belanger—last year signed three year deal with Edmonton $1.74 per season
Marcel Goc—-last year signed three year deal with Florida $1.70 per season
Vernon Fiddler—last year signed three year deal with Dallas $1.80 per season
Raffi Torres—last year signed two year deal with Phoenix $1.75 per season
Boyd Gordon—last year signed two year deal with Phoenix $1.325 per season
Chris Higgins—last year signed two year deal with Vancouver $1.9 million per season. 43 points last year
Gregory Campbell—-signed with Boston four years $1.6 million per season.
Daniel Paille—signed with Boston three years $1.3 million per season.
Taylor Pyatt—signed with New York Rangers two year $1.55 million per season
Each and everyone of these 18 forwards brings with them an essentially equal (none making more than 100k more than Burish) or smaller cap hit than Burish and yet each and everyone of them has an extensively better track record of success at the NHL level.
To make matters worse for San Jose, four of the 18 were with the Sharks at one point or another in the last four seasons, those being Mitchell, Moen, Wellwood and Goc.
Simply put, the evidence doesn’t lie, free agency has been very unfriendly to San Jose.