Ratto: Sharks get their top-class defenseman

Ratto: Sharks get their top-class defenseman
June 25, 2011, 2:26 am
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June 24, 2011

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Lets put it this way: Brent Burns, who is a good defenseman, better be really good now.

Burns, one of the Minnesota Wilds best backliners, now creates a seismic shift in the Sharks defense, coming west in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, who had just been signed to a three-year extension Thursday, and prized 2010 draft choice Charlie Coyle.

The money was not quite a wash, as Burns is due 4 million in 2012, the last year of his contract, with a 3.55M cap hit, while Setoguchi will make 2.75M with a cap hit of 3M.

But lets ignore the money now that its been committed, and get to the real point. A day after giving every indication that the team was holding firm with its core forwards, the Sharks peeled off one of them to address the more persistent and pressing need.

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Burns, who played in the NHL All-Star Game this year, actually outscored Setoguchi last year, 46-41, which either makes him the new Dan Boyle or the new offensive option on the second pairing with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. At 6-5, 220, he provides a level of size the Sharks really havent had at the blue line since Mike Rathje.

Thus, the obvious question of why the Wild would do what seems to be a meh deal for them, and the answer would seem to be Coyle, who played at Boston University and the U.S. team at the world junior championships. At 6-2, 205 and the rookie of the year in Hockey East, Coyle has the ubiquitous up-side for a team in Minnesota that needs to get younger and better offensively.

As for Setoguchi, the signing Thursday was played by general manager Doug Wilson as a further cementing of the offensive core of the team. Now that his real intent has been revealed, it leaves one to wonder if Joe Pavelski might also be in play for the right offer. That seems daft, but so did moving Setoguchi after giving him what amounted to a 66 percent raise after a streaky but problematic year.

The assumption will linger that the Sharks overpaid here, but their forward depth (Setoguchi is not an indispensable winger on this team) and their need for the kind of defense help Burns should provide made whatever overpayment seem prudent. In addition, the Sharks dont normally move forwards who bloom in other situations, so what seems like a get for Minnesota may not turn out to be so unless the Wild are prepared to make a quantum leap offensively.

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They have been above average in goals scored only once in their 11-year history, and perhaps Setoguchi is their ticket (Martin Havlat led them in goals last year with 22, one more than Setoguchi had in what was considered an off-year).

For San Jose, though, Burns opens up vistas that the playoffs revealed were a problem last year. Burns will be on the power play (he had eight last year), and presumably will serve on the penalty kill as well, although many penalties the Sharks need to kill may well be his (he had 98 penalty minutes a year ago).

Plus, he looks a bit like Zdeno Chara in the right light, if that matters to you.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com