Brent Burns and his potential free agency next summer is already a hot topic and will only continue to grow more popular as the season progresses with no contract extension between the blue liner and the San Jose Sharks. There is no doubt Burns is set to cash in whether he re-signs with the Sharks or heads to the open market and as Adam Gretz of FanRag Sports Network argues, Burns will be well worth every penny on his next contract.
Gretz speculates that given what similar defenseman have received, Burns should have no trouble finding a deal worth anywhere between $7MM and $8MM annually. That would place him easily among the highest paid blue liners in the game as only P.K. Subban has a contract with an AAV in excess of $8MM. But as Gretz points out, since becoming a full-time blue liner in 2014-15, Burns has more goals than anyone else at the position with 50.
Further, Burns ranks behind only Erik Karlsson in points with 149 and has more shots on goal than any other defender with 673.
Of course it’s easy to rationalize paying Burns or any other defenseman $8MM-a-year based on his current production level; the real question is how he is going to fare the longer his contract runs.
At 31, Burns is likely to get the seven-year max contract – eight if he re-signs with San Jose – which will take him well into his late 30’s. Naturally, Burns’ performance will decline as he ages and whoever signs the 6-foot-5, 230-pound defenseman will have to hope it’s a slow decline rather than a sudden one.
Assuming Burns finishes the current campaign strong he has a strong chance to join an accomplished group of defenders who have averaged 0.80-points-per-game or better between their age 29 and 31 seasons. According to Gretz, just 16 others have done that and many of those played during the 1980’s when scoring was significantly higher than it was in any other era. Gretz takes it further, noting that those blue liners saw on average a 19% decrease in point production over the four years following that stretch between 29 and 31. If Burns follows that same trend he would still be a 50-point scorer in year four of his next contract.
Granted, Gretz’s analysis does leave open the likelihood that Burns’ performance will decline further in years five through seven. In fact, he may well not be worth what he will be paid during those seasons but that’s a risk every team that signs a big money, long-term deal accepts. The hope is to get enough surplus value in the first half of the pact to offset the losses likely to be seen in the back half.
In other San Jose Sharks news:
- An unlikely top prospect, Brooklyn-born Kevin Labanc, who was selected by the Sharks in the sixth round of the 2014 entry draft, made his NHL debut last week. In five contests since joining San Jose, Labanc only has one point. But the rookie winger had his best game so far, as Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports, playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski in Thursday’s loss to St. Louis. Labanc notched his first NHL goal and nearly had another later in the game. The Sharks are going to need more games like that from the youngster as they may be without the services of Tomas Hertl for a while.