Extending Brent Burns cost the Sharks a pretty penny which means we’ll be feeling the repercussions of the deal for ... well, the next eight years. The contract may end up costing San Jose more than just money because it impacts their ability to wade into the free agent market and extend other players currently on the roster.
So let’s start by taking a look at the Sharks’ salary cap situation. Burns’ deal ($8 million AAV) is front-loaded, but that doesn’t change the cap hit, so we won’t worry about that too much. It also includes a three-team No Trade Clause. I assume he won’t go to places that don’t let you keep large reptiles as pets.
The new contract gives Burns a $2.24 million a year raise, which frankly isn’t a huge increase to San Jose’s current cap situation. The rub is that the Sharks are up against the cap right now, which our friends over at capfriendly.com can illuminate for you. San Jose has $53,537,500 of salary committed to next year. Here are the rest of the Sharks’ pending free agents:
- Joe Thornton (UFA)
- Patrick Marleau (UFA)
- Matt Nieto (RFA)
- Tommy Wingels (UFA)
- Melker Karlsson (RFA, arbitration eligible)
- Joonas Donskoi (RFA, arbitration eligible)
- Chris Tierney (RFA)
- Micheal Haley (UFA)
If the Sharks elected to not re-sign any of those players, they would clear $20.5 million in cap space. That’s not happening, of course, but don’t count on the return of players like Haley and Wingels. That frees up more than $3 million right off the bat, more than enough to cover the raise Burns is getting.
You can then factor in that Marleau will take a serious pay cut, if he returns at all, while Thornton should also see his salary dip (although much less pronounced). That must be balanced with the raises coming to Donskoi, Tierney and Karlsson while Nieto’s future remains cloudy.
This situation becomes much more delicate in two years, when Marc-Edouard Vlasic becomes a UFA. The Sharks will want to retain him no doubt, but I’d be surprised if they’re willing to pay as high a price as they just paid for Burns. That’s still a ways out, but you can bet Vlasic will be walking in to negotiations expecting a similar deal. That could get messy.
Of course by then Marleau and Thornton may both be off the books and so much can happen between now and then that speculating is more bar fodder than actual analysis. There’s nothing wrong with bar talk, but I don’t have a beer in front of me, so we’ll save that for another day.
TL;DR: While the Burns extension is significant, it should not prevent the Sharks from building their roster in the years to come. Vlasic becomes a UFA in two years, which is likely the first time we’ll see a real percussion from this contract.