Sharks Acquire All-Star Brent Burns

Well, so much for my in-depth pondering on how the San Jose Sharks could have handled Devin Setoguchi’s contract differently.  Less than 24 hours after discussing Segouchi’s new contract with the Sharks, the young, quick skating right wing has been dealt to the Minnesota Wild in a blockbuster trade.

The Sharks receive All-Star defenseman Brent Burns and a 2012 second round draft choice from Minnesota in exchange for Setoguchi, forward prospect Charlie Coyle, and the 28th overall pick in this year’s draft which turned out to be center Zack Phillips of the QMJHL.

Let’s get one thing straight, the Sharks’ top priority this offseason was upgrading the blue-line with a sure-fire top four defenseman. With the addition of Burns on Friday, they got more than that.

Burns is a number-one caliber defenseman. He is an elite puck mover with size, speed and the words “all around defenseman” are often attached to his name. Translation? He is no slouch in his own zone.

He may not be Shea Weber or Nicklas Lidstrom defensively, but he’s in the upper echelon of puck moving defenseman when it comes to defensive zone responsibilities.

Because of these attributes, Burns has the ability to eat up 25 minutes of ice time per game which will do wonders to lighten the load on the aging Dan Boyle.  And even if the Sharks don’t make any more significant changes to their defense, they certainly now have one to be reckoned with.

Boyle-Douglas Murray

Burns-Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Jason Demers-Justin Braun

That said, it has to be acknowledged that Burns did not come cheap and he only has one year remaining on his contract that comes at a $3.55 million cap hit before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

However, there is not one defenseman set to be an unrestricted free agent come July 1st that has the two-way game Burns is known for. Those who will be available will also come at a higher cost for the upcoming season.

And while technically the Sharks have given up three first round picks in this deal for Burns, wording the deal as three first rounders for one defenseman is wrong for several reasons.

Even though Setoguchi (first rounder in 2005) and Coyle (first rounder 2010) and Phillips (first rounder 2011) have enormous potential, there is no way to tell if that potential will ever be reached in any of their cases.

Furthermore, Setoguchi was widely considered a reach for the Sharks at the time when they took him eighth overall. Plus Coyle and Phillips were both taken very late in the first round (28th overall).

At that late point of the first round, the likelihood of players in the 25-30 range having better NHL careers than players drafted in the 31-50 range (round two) is extremely small. Therefore, the difference between the first round pick the Sharks gave up (Phillips) and the potential in of the 2012 second round pick they received is basically nothing.

That boils this deal down to Setoguchi and Coyle for Burns. An inconsistent winger and a prospect years away from the NHL for an elite defenseman who is only 26-years-old?

Great deal for the Sharks. Obviously it will look like a bad trade if the Sharks don’t win the Stanley Cup this upcoming season or if Burns doesn’t sign a contract extension but we’ll cross that bridge when the time calls for it.

However, if it pays off in either a Stanley Cup win or a contract extension (or both), it is hard not to like this deal for a team that is clearly in a win now mode. A trade of this caliber doesn’t make as much sense for a team like the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders or other rebuilding teams.

In the San Jose scenario, it makes perfect sense. Their window is closing and all they gave up from their current roster for a stud defenseman was their seventh best forward. No doubt a considerable improvement to the roster.

The Sharks are now a better team this upcoming season with a vastly improved defense core.  Put it this way, for next season alone, Burns at $3.55 million is much more bang for their buck than Setoguchi at $3 million.  The Sharks will still have plenty of cap room to find a cheap replacement for Setoguchi’s offense and to find penalty kill help for their bottom-six.


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