The NHL’s 2012 free agency period opened for business yesterday morning and San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson had one player that he couldn’t wait to get. Zack Parise? Ryan Suter? Ray Whitney? None of the above.
The Sharks wasted little time in signing 29-year-old Adam Burish, formerly of the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks agreed to a 4-year deal worth $7.2 million with Burish, a 6’0″, 190 lb forward.
An American born player, Burish played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin as a linemate with current Sharks star Joe Pavelski. Shortly after being signed, he texted Little Joe, saying, “Let’s go win a cup.” That’s the kind of enthusiasm that Wilson coveted when he targeted the former Stanley Cup Champion.
“If you spend any time around him, this guy just loves the game,” Wilson said. “He’s contagious – his enthusiasm, how he plays and how he lives.” Pavelski cosigned on Burish’s love for the game.
“He’s not going to let anyone take the night off, and that’s the biggest thing,” Pavelski said shortly after Burish signed. “You have to work every night and every day to get better, and he brings that attitude.”
The news of the signing came shortly after Sharks free agent forward Torrey Mitchell agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild, reuniting with Dany Heatley and his best friend, Devin Setoguchi. Burish will fill the void left by Mitchell on the Sharks’ bottom forward lines and hopefully bring some extra energy to the team in the process. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2009-10, and his goal is to get himself back to that pinnacle.
“Winning a Stanley Cup, for me, it’s like a sick drug. You just want more of it and more of it, and can’t get enough of it. I want a chance to do it again. I hope I can bring some of that enthusiasm and excitement, and hopefully pull guys along with me, with that excitement I have.”
On top of bottom line ice time and motivation, Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan hope that Burish will contribute to the Sharks 29th-ranked penalty kill. Burish averaged a little under 1:30 TOI in penalty kills over his two years in Dallas.
He certainly doesn’t have the statistics to endorse a $1.8M-per-year contract – 6 goals and 13 assists in 65 games last year – so Wilson is investing an awful lot of cap space on an energy guy. When asked about free agent forward Daniel Winnik – a player that the Sharks traded Jamie McGinn for last season — Wilson said it was “safe to say that (they) had moved on.” Winnik is a similar type of player to Burish, so there is little explanation for why the Sharks didn’t work harder to sign him, beyond an astronomical contract demand from Winnik. He showed plenty of hustle in his time with the team last year and was a guy that many Sharks fans hoped would return for 2012-13.
San Jose is a team without an identity; they’re hoping that Burish will give them one. If you’re looking for the Sharks to make a splash, hope is not lost yet. The top free agent players in the league, names like Parise, Suter and Semin, are still out there for the taking (although I wouldn’t hold my breath). For now you’ll have to take Burish and be happy with it, hoping that he brings the intangibles that Wilson believes he can to the Sharks’ dressing room.