The time is now for the San Jose Sharks to let go of Brent Burns.
It’s an obstinate problem for any franchise with aging superstars. There comes a point where you must ask the proverbial question: What is our vision moving forward? It’s prudent that every NHL franchise is prepared for that day to arrive and the San Jose Sharks could be rapidly approaching Judgement Day with veteran defenseman Brent Burns.
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General Manager Doug Wilson saw his former top line, and one of the best lines in hockey over the last decade, walk away for free over the past couple of seasons. Second overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Sharks, Patrick Marleau spent 20 consecutive years with the team before finally leaving in Free Agency. He signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017 before returning to where it all began this past offseason.
Last year, former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski left in Free Agency to join the Dallas Stars, before another franchise icon in Joe Thornton packed his bags and joined the Maple Leafs as well. All these players left with one thing in common; they wanted a chance to win.
You have to come to think that Brent Burns cannot possibly be added to this trifecta as another Shark to walk away from the tank. Burns, who signed an eight-year, $64 million contract with the Sharks back in November of 2016, has an AAV of $8 million through the 2024-25 season with a No-Trade Clause.
In hindsight, every penny of this deal was well worth it. He has been one of the league’s most talented defenseman and one of the linchpins of the Sharks franchise since arriving from the Minnesota Wild in 2011.
Luckily for the Sharks, the 36-year-old with one of the league’s most famous beards, will not become an Unrestricted Free Agent until after the 2024-25 season. Since having a career high 83-point season (16 G, 67 A) back in 2018/2019, Burns only amassed 45 points (12 G, 33 A) last season and so far now, has 11 points (5 G, 9 A) in 24 games in 2020-21.
The Sharks should get as close to max value for Brent Burns while they still can
Aside from that, he is much more than a points machine. He is a locker room talisman with an experienced voice. He knows what it means to be a leader and how to help develop other players. One of which is his blueline partner Mario Ferraro, who is blossoming under Burns’ tutelage.
Ultimately, the move for Burns gives him the opportunity at some silverware. At a record of 10-11-3 and nine points out of a Playoff spot while celebrating their 30th season as a franchise, this is not the Sharks team of old (obviously). San Jose made the Western Conference Finals three times in the last decade including a Stanley Cup finals appearance back in 2016 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now that seems more of a past time.
In this Pandemic-ridden season, moving Burns now would be quite difficult just because of the health and safety protocols that come along with a trade. Eight trades have been processed since the Jan. 13 start date according to CapFriendly. The largest of them all was of course the blockbuster deal that sent Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.
There are only a few contenders currently that could afford Burns under the cap and wait for him to complete his quarantine. As of now, those teams are the Carolina Hurricanes ($5,265,887), the Boston Bruins ($5,052,292) and the Florida Panthers ($7,302,963). Each team is currently holding a Playoff spot as we speak.
And the minimum requirement is to simply move other contracts in the deal in order to accommodate Burns’ hefty cap hit, along with picks and prospects and all that jazz, of course. Let’s be real here, that’s what it would take and for each team, it would most certainly be worth it.
Now, let’s say teams waited until next season to offer up a juicy deal. Here’s where it gets interesting. According to CapFriendly, nine NHL clubs will have north of $10 million in cap space next season, 11 teams will have north of $20 million in space and six teams will have more than $30 million. This excludes the Sharks. The Hurricanes will have north of $28 million in space by next year, the Bruins will have north of $29 million and the Panthers will have around $12 million.
With such a nice young core up and coming with players like John Leonard, Timo Meier, Mario Ferraro, Ryan Donato and Kevin Labanc, the Sharks could continue to improve their prospect pool dealing Burns. In reality, it is highly unlikely the San Jose Sharks move Brent Burns this year. However, it is something the front office should seriously think about before it becomes too late.