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Friedman Says Burns an Early Conn Smythe Frontrunner

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

In the year of Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns has quietly put together his own renaissance campaign.

The long-time San Jose Sharks great, who owns the franchise record for most career points by a defenseman in teal, was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes last off-season for Steven Lorentz, Eetu Makiniemi, and a 2023 third-round pick. The 2017 Norris Trophy winner was coming off three straight good-but-not-great offensive campaigns, averaging 0.62 Points Per Game from 2019 to 2022, a significant drop from his NHL-leading 0.92 from 2015 to 2019. The 36-year-old, three years left on his contract at $8 million AAV, was also looking to win a Stanley Cup, not likely to happen with a Sharks squad that was three years and running out of the playoffs.

So San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier sent Burns to the best possible situation – the veteran blueliner also had a three-team trade clause, which essentially gave him the power to dictate his next destination – the Metropolitan Division-winning Hurricanes.

Burns stepped up with 18 goals, his most since 29 in 2016-17, and 61 points, his most since 83 in 2018-19, and he’s continued to lead the way in the post-season, pacing Carolina defensemen with five assists and 23:44 ATOI.

The Canes are up 2-0 over the New Jersey Devils in the second round.

While Burns hasn’t put up gaudy numbers (yet) in the post-season, that didn’t stop Elliotte Friedman from raving about his play before Game Two yesterday.

“If Carolina wins the Stanley Cup,” Friedman declared on his 32 Thoughts Podcast, “Brent Burns is going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.”

This is not just idle chatter from a talking head.

Before the end of each Stanley Cup Final, 18 select members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote on the Conn Smythe Trophy. Since 2018, the first time that ballots were made public, the Sportsnet insider has voted on every Conn Smythe.

“Over Sebastian Aho?” 32 Thoughts co-host Jeff Marek replied. “That would be the race for me.”

Aho leads the Canes with nine points through eight playoff contests.

“Yes,” Friedman said.

Of course, this is just a prediction from Friedman, not a pledge – there’s a long way from the six post-season wins that Carolina has accumulated so far to the 16 they need to hoist the Cup – but it’s an indication of how good Burns has been so far this spring.

For Friedman, this is just the continuation of a comeback campaign for Burns. Earlier this week, ex-San Jose Sharks teammate Karlsson, Adam Fox, and Cale Makar were announced as this year’s 2023 Norris finalists.

BREAKING: Karlsson Is Norris Trophy Finalist

“The guy who got shafted most in voting this year, Brent Burns,” Friedman noted, not suggesting that Burns should win, but that he’s not likely to garner his deserved share of the vote.

All awards votes will be made public on Jun. 26, the night of the NHL Awards.

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