The Atlanta Thrashers just signed Dustin Byfuglien to a five year deal worth $26 million. Doing the simple math, that is a cap hit of $5.2 million for the life of the deal. A great deal for the Thrashers as they lock up a Norris Trophy candidate, and get the one thing owners and GMs love more than a free hot towel at the spa. Cost certainty.
Big Buff has 43 points in 58 games, 17 goals / 26 assists. He is adding offense from the blue line, which is something that NHL GMs are always willing to pay for. Like it or not, defensemen are expensive in comparison to forwards. D-men who show they can play get the big pay day. Don't like it? Move to Norway, I guess.
Why does the contract have anything to do with the Wild? No, this isn't a "From My Mom's Basement" post. This has a direct and nearly immediate impact on the Wild. You see, the Wild have a d-man with 34 points sitting on the blue line and with a contract about to need to be negotiated.
Some may call me crazy, that Big Buff doesn't compare to Brent Burns. In fact, Big Buff fans would tell me Burns has nothing on Byfuglien. Wild fans will tell me Buff has nothing on Burns. Both groups would be right, and yet both groups would be wrong.
These two players play a similar game at 5-on-5. Both are rangy d-men who play a physical game, who are counted on to play solid minutes, and both are counted on to know when to jump into the offense, and when to stay back.
The differences come on special teams. On the power play, Byfuglien's skill as a forward is used, as he stays in close as a big body in front of the net (That is, the last time I checked in with Thrashers bloggers). Buff is not used as much on the PK, having just 6:47 SH TOI for the season, translating to just 7 seconds per game.
On the Wild side, Burns is used in every situation imaginable. He plays 5-on-5, on the power play and short handed. He leads the Wild in even strength TOI, and is near the top of the chart in each situation. He also sits third on the team in points.
Burns is a leader on and off the ice, he is a fan favorite, he is clearly part of the core of the team, and he has been a member of the organization almost since birth. Letting him go for nothing would be a gigantic mistake, and trading him away would breed some seriously hostile feelings from fans. This leaves just the one option, and it is the one I feel Chuck Fletcher will go with.
The contract with Burns has one year on it after this one. That means extension talks can start after July 1st, and you can bet they will. If HWSRN were still around, you could have bet Burns would have been gone. Under new management, the door is open, and talks will begin as soon as they are allowed to.
Looking at CapGeek, the Wild have $37.9 million committed payroll the year after Bruns' deal expires. Pretend for a moment that Burns signs the exact same deal Buff did. Adding $5.2 million to that figure puts them just over $43 million with 12 players signed. This deal would make him the highest paid d-man on the team, which is exactly what he should be.
If I am Chuck Fletcher, I am happy with the deal Atlanta just pulled off. Brent Burns will need to get his payday on this contract. If the Wild can get him at the same deal, I would call it a win. They have Marek Zidlicky coming off the books the next year, Schultz the year after that. The only monkey wrench in the system is, once again, Cam Barker. An RFA making $3 million+ already, the Wild may need to play some serious hardball with him to get that terrible contract off the books.
If I am Chuck Fletcher, I place a phone call on July 1st offering the same deal Buff just got. Lock up Burns long term, and just flat out get it done.
OK, Wilderness, what are your thoughts? Like the deal with Buff? How do you see it effecting the negotiations with Burns? Would you sign Burns to the same deal?