Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Brent Burns, D
Salary cap hit: $5.76 million, pending unrestricted free agent
2015-16 year in review: There wasn’t a player on the roster that benefited more from the overhaul of the Sharks’ coaching staff than Brent Burns. No longer would there be any ambiguity over his position, as new coach Pete DeBoer made it crystal clear shortly after he was hired that Burns would stay on the blue line for the duration of the season.
Offense was never a problem for Burns - who possesses a booming shot and incredibly soft hands for a big man - but he took it to another level with a career high 27 goals and 75 points, placing him 11th in the NHL in scoring. His 353 shots on goal were second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin. It was Burns' defense, though, that was greatly improved. Over the second half of the season, Burns' two-way play was one of the biggest keys to the Sharks' surge in the standings, and he finished in third place for the Norris Trophy.
The wooly defenseman also took home the Sharks' annual “fan favorite” award, as he’s become one of the more unique and beloved athletes in the Bay Area.
2016-17 outlook: On the ice, not much should change regarding Burns’ role this season. He’ll continue to play big minutes after leading the Sharks in that category last season (25:51), including manning the point on an extremely effective top power play unit. There’s no doubt he’ll remain paired with Paul Martin in the top four, after Martin – who is a contrast from Burns in just about every way – proved to be a perfect partner for Burns. The Sharks will have to hope that the aging 35-year-old Martin can again remain healthy, allowing Burns to roam free all over the ice.
Off the ice, the Sharks would prefer to get Burns signed to a contract extension, as he enters the last year of his deal. It won’t be cheap, as defensemen like Burns are difficult to come by, so expect his next deal to be in the $7-$8 million range, at least. Although it wouldn’t be on the same level as what went on with Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay last season, the Sharks surely don’t want Burns’ status hanging over their heads throughout the year. Getting this deal done should be at the top of general manager Doug Wilson’s to-do list.