SAN JOSE – After Pete DeBoer’s first year as a head coach in Florida, he saw top defenseman Jay Bouwmeester depart via unrestricted free agency to Calgary. After just one season in New Jersey, it was star forward Zach Parise who moved to greener pastures in Minnesota, the summer after New Jersey advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now the second-year Sharks’ coach, DeBoer expressed confidence that defenseman Brent Burns, about the enter the final year of his contract, will get extended in San Jose at some point. He doesn’t consider Burns’ situation comparable to what happened with Bouwmeester or Parise.
“Both guys at that point were vague on whether they wanted to come back. I think it’s clear that Brent likes it here, [and] wants to come back,” DeBoer said. “It’s just a matter of getting people to find the fit.”
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson doesn’t comment on contract negotiations, and Burns’ agent is also keeping mum with one week to go until the start of the regular season, although there have been talks between the two sides according to a source.
Burns, though, painted a slightly hazier picture than DeBoer. Here’s the back-and-forth with him after Thursday’s skate:
You’re going into the last year of your deal here, does that weigh on your mind at all?
Burns: “No, I don’t really think about it, to be honest.”
Are you involved in the process?
Burns: “Yeah. Pretty involved.”
Any concern that nothing is done yet?
Burns: “I’ve got no concerns at all.”
Can you see yourself here long-term?
Burns: “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
You like being a part of this group though?
Burns: “Yeah, it’s been great. We love this city. It’s a great place to be. Great bunch of guys. There’s different sides, you know? You see it every year. Yesterday, you see a guy like [Dan Boyle]. Hey, who knows if they want me back? You never know. I’m a pretty easy going guy, we’ll just see what happens.”
Is it easy to put it in the back of your mind and just go out and play?
Burns: “Yeah, I don’t think about it. I’ve got no concerns. 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.”
The 31-year-old is in line for a significant raise over his current salary of $5.76 million, and there is no doubt the Sharks would like him back. Burns’ importance to the club can’t be understated, of course, as the defenseman thrived under the new coaching staff and atmosphere. He finished with 75 points (27g, 48a), second in scoring among defensemen and 11th overall, and ended up third place in voting for the Norris Trophy.
Still, Wilson has made it a habit of not signing any of his players to deals that exceed five years. It’s a good bet that the Sharks’ general manager sees Dustin Byfuglien’s recent extension as a starting point, as the 31-year-old defenseman recently inked a five-year, $38 million contract with Winnipeg.
Wilson also has to factor in that he’ll be in the same position next summer with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has been underpaid at $4.25 million since 2013-14. Vlasic’s camp could easily point to Burns’ deal and say they want the exact same terms. The lower Wilson can keep Burns’ deal the lower he can keep probably keep Vlasic’s, allowing more room to maneuver under the salary cap to keep the team competitive in future years.
As long as Burns remains unsigned, it’s a story that is bound to follow the Sharks throughout the season – especially with the wooly Burns’ increased popularity both locally and league-wide. DeBoer, though, doesn’t seem apprehensive. He’s been through this before.
“I think that contract status stuff is overblown for guys with [those kind of credentials]. … I don’t think that’s going to play a factor in him showing up at the rink,” DeBoer said. “He knows he’s going to get a contract, he knows he’s going to get paid. I don’t think that’s something he should lose any sleep over, and I wouldn’t expect he would.”