Sharks Score Again With Burns Extension

For as much criticism as the San Jose Sharks have received over the years for not winning a Stanley Cup, they have remained a Cup-contending team year after year while other Cup winning teams have regressed. The biggest reason for that has been their ability to sign players to reasonable contracts. Deals for players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, and now Brent Burns are all signings that fit with the way GM Doug Wilson does business.

Earlier this offseason, Burns landed in San Jose along with a second round pick in the 2012 draft (something which shouldn’t be forgotten but always seems to be left out) and in exchange Minnesota received winger Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and a first round draft pick in 2011). The biggest concern in the Bay Area about the deal was Burn’s lack of a contract past this upcoming season.

Now that he has an extension, a brand spanking new five-year extension through 2016-17, worth $5.76 million per season, it is shocking to hear anyone suggest that the All-Star defenseman was overpaid with this deal.

Just like fellow Sharks before him, Burns signed a deal at a discount. Joe Thornton would have made more on open market than his $7.0M figure, so would have Patrick Marleau and his $6.9M contract. Similarly, Joe Pavelski would have made more than his $4.0M deal and Ryane Clowe certainly out-played his $3.6 million dollar contract last season.  (All those numbers coming courtesy of the ever so useful CapGeek.com)

Make no mistake about it, given another healthy year in 2011-12, Burns gets significantly more per season next offseason if he were to have been an unrestricted free agent. Considering we’re hearing about Drew Doughty and Shea Weber getting deals over $7 million per, yes, this is a great deal for the Sharks. Burns may not be at the same level of Doughty or Weber, but is he that far off? No, absolutely not. In fact, one could make the case he’s better all-around than Doughty at this stage in their respective careers (but that’s an argument for some other time).

The point to be had, and Sharks fans will notice this when the season starts, is that Burns brings a stronger all-around game than Dan Boyle does.  Yet Boyle makes $6.67M per season in a contract he signed while with the Tampa Bay Lightning and nobody around the Bay Area has once complained about that contract. Not even one person. Nobody out here has ever even whispered the words “Dan Boyle is overpaid.”

While Burns does bring a past history of concussion issues with him to San Jose, the deal still makes sense for many different reasons. As per a commenter on Mercury News beat writer David Pollak’s blog, it was pointed out that getting Burns signed before Weber and Doughty could be beneficial. Had those two already been awarded those $7 million plus contracts, Burns might have been less inclined to sign an extension and be more interested in hitting the jack pot a year from now.

And as for those injury issues, even if Burns suffers some sort of injury at some point while playing for the Sharks this upcoming season, it’s still beneficial to sign him now rather than wait. With only a year left on the deal, unless an injury would be (and if you’re a Sharks fan, feel free to knock on wood) career ending, the Sharks would have still been in bidding wars with a bunch of other teams next offseason to re-sign him. At that point they could either outbid every other interested team for the services of a injury riddled player, or let him walk and be without Burns, Setoguchi, Coyle and a first round pick for essentially nothing.

Furthermore, it is impossible to know when any injury is going to occur. How can anyone blame a team on signing a player just because of concussion “risks”? Especially considering the player in question is coming off a healthy full season in which he was named an All-Star? There is as good of a chance of Burns suffering another  concussion in this upcoming season as there is of him suffering one in 2014-15. Burns’ injury questions are not of the nagging and consistent  variety that are always decreasing his effectiveness.

Burns put up 46 points last season with the Wild and now playing with an elite power-play team like San Jose, it is hard to project anything worse than a 10-point increase to that total. Barring injury, it’s a safe bet that Burns will be over 50 points because he will get minimum 24 minutes per game. Easily one of the top-10 all around defenseman in the league, and yet not even the highest-paid defender on his team?

Sounds like a team player  who left money on the table to stay long term with a franchise he believes will have just as good a chance (or better) to win the Stanley Cup over the next few years as any other team.

Taking a gander at Capgeek.com’s list of most expensive contracts for next season, (Burns’ new deal won’t kick in until next season, so he’s not on the list) and you will see that if Burns’ new deal were to kick in this year, his annual salary would be essentially tied with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for 14th most expensive. The four defenseman right behind Burns and Markov on that list? Mattias Ohlund, Mike Komisarek, Sergei Gonchar and Paul Martin.

Burns is far and away more valuable than either of these three defenders and yet he signed a new deal for a mere 260K more? How may synonyms are there for the word “steal”? Turns out there aren’t many synonyms but this deal fits that definition to a tee.

Even more noticeable than the four defenseman right behind where Burns would be on that list are the 13 who come before him.

Nicklas Lidstrom
Wade Redden
Dion Phaneuf
Dan Boyle
Jay  Bouwmeester
James Wisniewski
Kevin Bieksa
Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell
Chris Pronger
Duncan Keith
Zdeno Chara
Christian Ehrhoff

At most, there are four defenseman of this group who are better to have than Burns: Lidstrom, Seabrook,  Keith and Chara.  That said, Seabrook and Chara don’t have the pure offensive skating ability of Burns, and depending on a team’s need for size versus puck moving, hypothetically you could see why a team would choose Burns over Seabrook or Chara.

Anyway you slice it or break it down, Sharks GM Doug Wilson extended Burns’ contract at a brilliant price. Home-town discount? Well Burns wasn’t born here, nor has he played a single game in teal, so not sure if that is the appropriate label for this deal but clearly it is a significantly discounted price given fair market value.

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4 Responses to “Sharks Score Again With Burns Extension”

  1. Brian
    August 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Well done Dougie Wilson. and good article andy.

    my one questions: now I haven’t followed Burns enough to have noticed his skill level & ability in action, but i glanced at his career stats and he’s been in the minus for +/- every year basically. any concern there? i know the wild haven’t had too many winning record seasons, but still.

  2. Andrew Bensch
    August 1, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    brian, not a big believer in plus/minus when it can be inflated for being on a good team or deflated for being on a bad team. He certainly isn’t Lidstrom/Weber/Keith in his own zone, and some out there have suggested he can have more than his fair share of snafus defensively. But that said, I would still grade his defensive abilities above Dan Boyle’s, someone who i rate as average to above average defensively.

    And most likely Burns will be paired with San Jose’s best defensive dman in Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic should make Burns better defensively and vice versa Burns making Vlasic a better offensive player.

  3. Tom Schreier
    August 2, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    I like the recent signings and it was great that they could lock up Burns right now.

    Great job on the article.

  4. RoneFace
    August 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Finally we agree on something! Though I don’t think anyone would pick Burns over Chara I really think this contract is a steal. Not only did he put up quality offensive numbers on a bad offensive team but he’s still on the upswing. He will improve by going to a better offensive team and he will improve by virtue of gaining experience (remember he switched to D only 5-6 years ago).

    It really comes down to this: if the Wild thought they could have signed him for under $6 million annually, would they have made the trade? I doubt it. As much as they like Setoguchi and Coyle and the 1st round pick the deal on their end was about getting something for a player they were not confident they could sign to an extension without overpaying. I believe Burns has the same agent as Gaborik and we know how well those negotiations went. There’s no doubt the Wild needed to upgrade their top 6 scoring ability but I believe they’d rather have Burns on a below market deal and find that top 6 depth on the FA market or by developing some young scorers.