As far as pending free agents were concerned, the entirety of the past season was spent wondering where Steven Stamkos would end up, but the anti-climactic ending saw the Lightning sniper remain in Tampa Bay. And while there’s bound to by hype surrounding the pending free agency of San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, don’t be surprised if he, like Stamkos, ends up sticking around in the same town.
Burns, 31, is one of the most exciting rearguards in the league and is coming off of an outstanding season in which he set career highs with 27 goals and 75 points, was a Norris Trophy finalist for the first time in his career, landed a handful of MVP votes and earned himself a second all-star team nod. Suffice it to say that if he were to become a free agent, he’d have no shortage of suitors.
The thing is, though, Burns isn’t even thinking about his contract situation. And even if he was, you’d never know, because he seems to be as calm and collected as ever.
“Yeah, I don’t think about it. I’ve got no concerns,” Burns told CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz. “I’m excited for this year. We’ve got a great team. We feel good with our group, feel great with our coaching staff, the energy, the atmosphere. With team success comes individual success. As long as we do well, everything will work out.”
And financially, there’s no doubt things will “work out” just fine for Burns. While he’s a veteran player, he’s proven himself a huge asset and he continues to improve even as he gets later in his career. Even if Burns isn’t signed by the Sharks come July 1, he’s going to land himself a big money deal somewhere, wherever that may be. But the fact is that it’s probably going to take Burns driving quite a hard bargain for him not to end up in San Jose next season.
While the moment has seemed right for the Sharks to make some sort of transition for the past few seasons, there really is no better time than the 2017-18 campaign, and that can start with Burns as one of the centerpiece signings.
Come July 1, 2017, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will come off the books — barring any contract extensions, of course — and leave the Sharks with nearly $13.5 million in additional cap space and a projected grand total of $28.5 million-plus available to use in free agency, according to CapFriendly.
It will also help the Sharks when it comes to signing Burns that more cap space is likely to be freed up by way of the expansion draft. While anything could realistically happen at the expansion draft, San Jose seems most likely to lose a defenseman to the Las Vegas franchise. Not a cheap one, either. If a Sharks defenseman is taken by Las Vegas, it’s almost certain to be one earning at least $2 million per season, be it Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon or David Schlemko. That would open up more room for Burns and gives the Sharks $30 million-plus to spend, with no accounting for a possible rise in the salary cap.
Of course, that money can’t all go to Burns, though his signing will be the most expensive. The only real concern will be keeping enough money available to stock the roster up front, but that barely seems like a concern, either.
Only five forwards currently slated to suit up in 2016-17 are under contract beyond this season: Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward and Tomas Hertl. Luckily for the Sharks, however, a number of their up-and-coming players will be coming off of their first entry-level deals and Melker Karlsson is the only pending restricted free agent with arbitration status. That can help keep costs down, and would leave a Thornton and Marleau-less Sharks squad with more than enough money to round out their roster.
Could Burns head elsewhere? Of course it’s possible, but it doesn’t really feel probable. The Sharks can give Burns the money, term and opportunity while making everything else work, and that’s not to mention San Jose is coming off of a Western Conference final appearance. So don’t be surprised if the coming season’s biggest free agent sweepstakes ends much like the last.
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