In what was perhaps the Carolina Hurricanes’ biggest move of the offseason, the team acquired defenseman Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks.
Burns had spent the last 11 years with the Sharks and while the last few seasons hadn't gone according to plan for the defenseman, there was a lot to like about the deal.
The result: so far, Burns hasn’t missed a step with the Hurricanes, scoring five goals and 28 points in 40 games. He leads the team’s blue line in points by a wide margin and ranks third on the team in shots on goal.
Being partnered with Jaccob Slavin has undoubtedly played a big role in his success, as Burns isn’t necessarily counted on to do it all while on the ice, as he was at times in San Jose. While a lot of Burns' upside comes from his offensive output, not having a reliable partner in the last couple years with the Sharks didn't necessarily allow the team to get full value from him.
However, over the last few years, the Hurricanes have found a ton of success partnering Jaccob Slavin with offensive defensemen on the team’s top pairing. From Dougie Hamilton to Tony DeAngelo, and now Burns, Slavin’s status as one of the most reliable defenders in the league allows his partner to be a little bit more free offensively.
That’s arguably being shown in his shots and shot attempt totals this season. Burns has upped his shots per game average by quite a bit from last season, on pace for 267 shots this season, compared to 203 last year. This also comes despite slightly reduced minutes, playing less than 24 minutes per game, down from more than 26 minutes per game in each of the two prior years with San Jose.
In terms of production, if you compare Burns’ numbers this year to those of Hamilton and DeAngelo in their final seasons with the Hurricanes, he’s pretty close to keeping pace in both goals and points per game:
Then if you examine the moves that led to Burns coming to Carolina, the Hurricanes ended up essentially getting assets back too. DeAngelo was signed as a free agent to replace Hamilton (who the Hurricanes lost for free) in 2021, and then Carolina got back a second, third and fourth-round pick for DeAngelo this summer, while only giving up a third-round pick, depth forward and goaltending prospect to get Burns.
Carolina arguably got back the better assets while shifting from DeAngelo to Burns. While they’re going to post similar numbers, Burns is also more capable defensively (even if far from perfect).
Comparing him to Hamilton, Burns may be producing a lower rate, but he’s also taking on the role at a $5.28 million cap hit (given the retained salary), rather than Hamilton’s current $9 million cap hit with the New Jersey Devils.
Despite his age, Burns has proved to be a perfect fit with Carolina. He’s brought a more well-rounded game than what we saw with DeAngelo last year, while providing a similar impact to what the Hurricanes had from Hamilton, at a significantly lower cap hit than what it would have cost to keep him.
So far, making the move to acquire Burns has paid off in a big way for the Hurricanes.