The Value of Brent Burns

Although the team is in the thick of a playoff race and summer’s free agency seems a lifetime away, I would argue that the #1 priority come July 1st is to lock down Brent Burns to a long-term contract.

Burns seems to like it here, has taken over the #1 defenseman spot, is playing well offensively and defensively, represented the Wild at the All Star game, and has started a family (and zoo) in our state. But as we saw with Mikko Koivu, the Wild aren’t going to get a bargain deal out of their star player.

The best way to guess at Burns’ next contract would be to look at similar defensemen and what they make. I’m going to look at their production in that contract year, the terms of the deal, and also adjust for salary cap hit. This is a crucial element that is often left out of discussions, but the salary cap has increased by well over 50%, so we will need to adjust salaries accordingly.

To do this, I am simply multiplying the yearly cap hit by the projected 2011-12 cap max divided by the cap max in the contract year of the deal. In other words, if a player signed a contract in 2007, the salary cap was $50.3m. The projected 2011-12 salary cap is about $62m. So I multiple the cap hit by (62/50.3) = 1.23. A player signing for $6m in 2007 has an adjusted cap hit of $7.4m if he had signed a contract in 2011.

Let’s look at Burns’ stats. I’m using his age and status at the end of his current contract as well as projecting his current production:

Age: 26 (2012)
Status: UFA (2012)
Goals: 20 (projected)
Points: 49 (projected)
Time on Ice: 24.9 minutes

The cap-conscious among us would point to three recently-signed offensive defensemen as “comparables” from which to base his next contract: Mike Green, Duncan Keith, and recently Dustin Byfuglien. These players aren’t far off in terms of style or importance, but they were all restricted free agents when signing, meaning that they were negotiating with one team, lowering their earnings. Still, we could use them as a “floor”.

Dustin Byfuglien (25) - $5.2m for 5 years, 24g, 60pts, 23.3min TOI
Mike Green (23) - $5.7m for 4 years, 18g, 56pts, 23.6min TOI
Duncan Keith (26) - $5.8m for 13 years, 14g, 69pts, 26.6min TOI

These guys all produced a little more than Burns but have a lot more offensive power on their teams, so I would argue they are all in the same class offensively. They average about $5.6m, but as RFA’s they are making less than they would on the open market. Furthermore, Keith’s contract has several “cheat” years, artificially lowering his cap hit by front-loading the contract.

Now let’s look at some players who DID reach the open market. We should expect them to make quite a bit more money than the RFA’s as they could negotiate with all 30 teams. They could be used as a “ceiling” of sorts.

Lubomir Visnovsky (32) - $6.1m for 5 years, 8g, 41pts, 23.0min TOI
Wade Redden (30) - $7.1m for 6 years, 6g, 38pts, 22.2min TOI
Brian Campbell (29) - $7.8m for 8 years, 8g, 62pts, 25.1min TOI
Zdeno Chara (29) - $10.6m for 5 years, 16g, 43pts, 27.2min TOI

These guys produced a little less than Burns in terms of goals and even points (except for Campbell), but are still roughly in the same class offensively. The average is $7.9m, which is quite a bit higher than the RFA’s obviously.

Finally, let’s look at a few comparable players, who re-signed with their current teams before hitting the free market, but in their unrestricted free agency years:

Tomas Kaberle (28) - $6.0m for 5 years, 9g, 67pts, 28.2min TOI
Dan Boyle (32) - $7.3m for 6 years, 4g, 25pts, 27.2min TOI
Andrei Markov (29) - $7.1m for 4 years, 6g, 49pts, 24.5min TOI

Boyle had a down year but has before and since put up numbers in that offensive class. And as we see, they are right in between the RFA and UFA salaries averaging $6.8m.

So we have a floor of $5.6m, a ceiling of $7.9m, and a comparable average of $6.8m. And I would argue that $6.8m is about what we would pay for a player of Burns’ calibre.

BUT, I don’t think Burns will sign for $6.8m for a few reasons. First, The Captain, Mikko “Franchise” Koivu, signed a long-term deal for $6.75m. I believe that effectively set the upper limit for team salaries, and I don’t think Burns would feel comfortable making as much or more than Mikko.

Second, I believe there are some intangibles in signing here. Frankly, Burns is rooted here with his family and massive animal shelter. He has a comfort level both in terms of his life and the organization. I think that could help the Wild get a slightly lower salary.

Third, I’m guessing Burns will have some sort of no trade or no movement clause in his contract, and management (and ownership) wouldn’t want to trade him anyway. That also helps to lower the cap hit of a player because he trades higher money and uncertainty for less money but security.

My final answer? I believe Burns will sign for roughly $6.5m per year, on about a 6-8 year deal. I think management wants to keep him long-term, I think he wants to stay here long-term, but Wild ownership does not give out “lifetime” contracts with cheat year salaries at the end to artificially lower the cap hit. And I think this would be a very fair deal for both sides, with the added benefit that I could finally replace my Gaborik jersey with a new Brent Burns jersey!


  1. WHAT?? 6.5M???? 6.5M????? Just spit out my coffee!!! We overpayed for Koivu, so sure why not-make it 7.9M

  2. i don't think burns would feel bad making more than Koivu.
    people always make the mistake of ascribing some fantasy nobility on players they like. Koivu didn't take a discount. Burns might not make more than Koivu, but don't believe for one second that he'd settle for less than he had to just so he came in under Koivu's numbers.

  3. I sure hope they don't give him that much. I love Burns like everyone else, but I expect him to get 5-something a year.

    Good blog by the way, keep it up

  4. Rynryn - Burns wouldn't feel bad making more than Koivu but you can be sure the team wants to send the message its captain makes the most money.