The Sharks dipped into the unrestricted free agent waters on Sunday in the person of 29-year-old forward Adam Burish, who agreed to a four-year contract with the club worth a reported 1.8 million a year on average. A veteran of six NHL seasons, Burish spent the last two in Dallas after winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Burish is expected to help fill out the Sharks' bottom two lines, but more than that, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is adding some personality and enthusiasm to a locker room that lacked exactly that last season.
If you spend any time around him, this guy just loves the game, Wilson said on a conference call with the local media, shortly after noon. Hes contagious his enthusiasm, how he plays and how he lives. Were trying to re-establish our identity of going at people and playing that way. He is a guy that just fits right in with our group and with what were trying to accomplish. Hes a heartbeat type of guy.
Burish was the first call that Wilson made after 9:00 a.m. PST, when all unrestricted free agents became eligible to negotiate with other teams. Todd McLellan was also on the call while on vacation in Hawaii. Although he fielded offers from several other clubs, Burish decided the Sharks were the best fit. He played college hockey with Joe Pavelski, is familiar with Marty Havlat from his days in Chicago, and won a championship with Antti Niemi.
Its always a team that Ive liked. I obviously have some real good friends there, Burish said.
It wasnt an easy decision. I wont say that. We spoke with other teams, but I dont care about those other teams anymore, to be honest, he said. Im really happy with where Im at. Im thrilled, and Im excited to get moving and get out there soon.
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It didnt take long for him to text his buddy Pavelski, either, whom he works out with in the summer.
Its one of the first things he said after the deal was done, is Lets go win a Cup.' Pavelski said.
Hes not going to let anyone take the night off, and thats the biggest thing. You have to work every night and every day to get better, and he brings that attitude, which is great.
One of the more outspoken players in the league, Burish couldnt conceal his passion on a conference call shortly after the deal was announced. This is, after all, the guy that called Chris Pronger the biggest idiot in the league after the 2010 finals in which his Blackhawks defeated Prongers Flyers (Burish later apologized for the remark).
He knows hes not going to be a guy that scores 20 goals a season (he has just 25 in 297 career games), but Burish will undoubtedly be one of the more gregarious inhabitants of the Sharks dressing room.
They know the way I play. Everybody kind of knows the way I play. For me, I want to bring some excitement. I want to pull some guys along, he said.
Winning a Stanley Cup, for me, its like a sick drug. You just want more of it and more of it, and cant get enough of it. I want a chance to do it again. I hope I can bring some of that enthusiasm and excitement, and hopefully pull guys along with me, with that excitement I have.
On the ice, Burish may join what was an awful penalty-killing unit. The Sharks will be much more aggressive in that area of the game after finishing 29th last season.
In Dallas, Burish averaged nearly a minute-and-a-half per game on the PK on what was the 13th-ranked unit.
Doug talked a little bit about it, just how he wants to have a different mentality and different attitude, Burish said. Kind of like, were going to go at you and were not going to give you too much respect. Were not going to be scared going out there on the penalty kill. Were going to take away your time and space, and were going to be aggressive.
Burish is signed through the 2015-16 season.
The term was something that works very well in our range, Wilson said.
With the addition of Burish, the Sharks will not negotiate with free agent forward Daniel Winnik, who had not yet signed with anyone as of Sunday afternoon. Torrey Mitchell inked a three-year contract with Minnesota earlier in the day. Other free agents that have likely played their last games with the Sharks are defensemen Colin White and Jim Vandermeer, and forwards Dominic Moore and Brad Winchester.
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Wilson said: This isnt a negative against anybody else, but were very clear on how we want to reestablish our identity. Not just on our PK, but how we play the game. Bringing Brad Stuart in we want people that are aggressive, that go at you.
Thats pretty consistent with what we identified we wanted to do, and well continue to go forward building that type of team.