Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of NHL training camp.
Name/Position: Brent Burns, defenseman
Salary: $5.76 million
Contract status: Signed through 2016-17 ($5.76 million cap hit)
2013-14 year in review: In his first full season as an NHL forward, Brent Burns posted career highs with 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games playing mostly alongside Joe Thornton. He finished second on the team in hits with 145, and on some nights was an absolute beast when using his massive 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. The biggest issue Burns had was with his consistency, including a 19-game goal-scoring drought from January until March (sandwiched around the Olympic break). Still, Burns’ transition from defenseman to right wing could only be termed as a success.
2014-15 outlook: Less than a month after the Sharks’ season ended, general manager Doug Wilson surprisingly announced that Burns would return to the blue line for the start of 2014-15. Wilson cited the Sharks’ need for a Drew Doughty/P.K. Subban type, and the hope is that Burns develops into that kind of dynamic player on the back end that is so hard to find.
That may be a lofty goal in that Doughty and Subban are arguably the best two defensemen in the NHL, but there’s reason to believe Burns can be a force on the blue line. Despite an uneven run in San Jose in his first season, he’s now well acclimated to his surroundings and will get to work with Larry Robinson, who wasn’t yet with the Sharks in Burns’ first season in teal. Robinson has done wonders for the development of some of the Sharks' other rear guards, so expect to see him spending plenty of time with Burns during camp.
When Burns was originally acquired from Minnesota in the summer of 2011, the thought was that he was the eventual replacement for Dan Boyle. Boyle is now gone, so Burns will get that chance. If it doesn’t work out, San Jose still has a strong pair of right-handed shooting defensemen in Jason Demers and Justin Braun.
At the same time, the Sharks’ coaching staff now knows that Burns can be an effective, and at times dominant, winger. Wilson has called Burns the Sharks’ version of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in that he’s a versatile guy, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Burns take a few shifts as a forward late in a game in which the Sharks are trailing. He’s a nifty weapon for the club to have in its arsenal.