The San Jose Sharks had a busy first day of free agency.
In the morning, they traded franchise pillar Brent Burns, along with Lane Pederson, to the Carolina Hurricanes for fourth-line forward Steven Lorentz, goalie prospect Eetu Makiniemi, and a conditional 2023 third-round pick.
The Sharks agreed to retain 34 percent of the 37-year-old Burns’s remaining contract, creating about $5.3 million dollars of cap space in each of the next three years. The third-round pick is the worse of the Hurricanes’ two next year, Carolina and Philadelphia’s.
Burns is irreplaceable in the hearts of San Jose Sharks fans, and possibly, on the ice. The “Wookie” led Sharks defensemen with 54 points and all NHL skaters in minutes played this past season.
It’s not a great package, by any means, for a player of Burns’s stature and caliber, but you have to consider that the long-time Shark was ready to leave to chase a Stanley Cup, and his contract, considering his age, is a sizable risk for any team to take on.
The San Jose Sharks followed up by signing UFAs Oskar Lindblom (two years, $2.5 mil AAV), Nico Sturm (three years, $2 mil AAV), Markus Nutivaara (one year, $1.75 mil AAV), and Matt Benning (four years, $1.25 mil AAV).
The 25-year-old Lindblom is a puck-protecting third-line winger who is hoping to find his form from 2018-19, when he posted 17 goals. He’s got a little upside and can help you if he’s not scoring.
The 27-year-old Sturm is an excellent fourth-line center option who can help on the penalty kill. Sturm won the Stanley Cup this past season with the Colorado Avalanche.
Both Nutivaara and Benning promise to be NHL-caliber bottom-pairing defensemen, though they have very different styles of game. Nutivaara is a more cerebral puckmover and Benning is a highly competitive defender who keeps things simple.
It’s hard to say that the San Jose Sharks are better – you can’t trade your No. 1 blueliner and replace him with a handful of solid depth guys and say that. But Lindblom, Sturm, Nutivaara, Benning, and Lorentz, for that matter, are all true everyday NHL players, which is more than you can say, frankly, than the parade of rookies that the Sharks have trotted out in recent years.
If they can find a way to replace Burns’s production and minutes – a tall order, for sure – San Jose might be okay next year.
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