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How ESPN grades Sharks’ Brent Burns trade, free agency

Sharks’ offseason moves receive encouraging grade from ESPN originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The hiring of new Sharks general manager Mike Grier in early July signified the start of a new era for the franchise, and it’s already off to a pretty good start.

Grier got to work right away in his quest to make San Jose’s roster better, with the Sharks making impactful offseason additions — and one big subtraction — that give the team a new feel without tearing it all down.

In ESPN’s offseason grades released on Thursday, Greg Wyshynski applauded Grier and assistant manager Joe Will for putting together “a solid offseason” for the Sharks by re-signing key players like goalie Kaapo Kähkönen, inking several free agents, and, most notably, trading Brent Burns.

Overall, Wyshynski gave the Sharks’ offseason a grade of B+.

While the Burns trade was a “massive change” that didn’t bring an overwhelming return, it freed up plenty of salary cap space for San Jose to focus on the future, Wyshynski wrote.

In sending their longtime defenseman along with AHL forward Lane Pederson to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sharks got back Steven Lorentz, goalie prospect Eetu Makiniemi and a conditional 2023 third-round pick.

“The return for Burns was underwhelming, but it wasn’t going to be anything but underwhelming,” Wyshynski wrote. “Burns is 37. He makes $8 million per season. He has trade protection and had to accept a deal to Carolina. Maybe Makiniemi becomes something one day in goal. But this trade was about getting out from under all but 33 percent of an aging veteran’s contract, and kudos to Grier for doing so.”

Immediately after the July 13 trade, Wyshynski gave the Sharks a B grade for the deal and the Hurricanes an A-. The Hurricanes, thanks in part to the addition of Burns, also received an overall A grade in ESPN’s offseason report card.

Despite NHL experts feeling lukewarm about how San Jose fared in the Burns trade, other offseason moves like the additions of Oskar Lindblom (two years, $2.5 mil AAV), Nico Sturm (three years, $2 mil AAV), Markus Nutivaara (one year, $1.75 mil AAV) and Matt Benning (four years, $1.25 mil AAV) in free agency contributed to their B+ grade.

RELATED: How Quinn could have become Sharks’ coach back in 2015

The Sharks’ B+ tied them for the ninth-highest offseason grade on ESPN’s list, along with the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche Montreal Canadians, and Washington Capitals.

As San Jose looks to return to the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2019, they hope their season turns out to be an A+.

Now that they have a new head coach in David Quinn, the Sharks can really get to work.