Whether or not a contract extension is in place before Wednesday, I don’t see much point in moving Alex Burrows, as was rumored this weekend by Pierre Lebrun on Hockey Night in Canada.
His value to the Canucks is much more than what he would bring back in trade. His 16 goals are 33 points are already career-highs. His 17 assists are 2 short of a career-high. In his last 12 games, he has 5 goals, 5 assists and 10 points in an average of 17:08 minutes of ice-time (17:53 not including the Montreal game in which he received a game misconduct.) Of those 5 goals, 4 came in the third period – a short-handed game-winner vs. Carolina, game-tying goals vs. St. Louis and Toronto, and an insurance goal vs. Columbus.
It seems like anyway that there’s no sign of him slowing down.
To Burrows’ credit, he hasn’t let this season’s success get to his head.
But when Burrows scored, he did not tug on his inner slot machine, sending dollar signs rolling through his eye sockets.
“I’m not asking for first-line money or top-six money,” Burrows said emphatically after the game. “I don’t think it changes anything. I still consider myself a checker. That’s what I think I am first. If I can generate offence once in a while, I think it’s a plus for the team.”
Burrows has remained grounded and grateful in this unexpected run which has transformed him from important checker to important offensive game changer.
If he’s to keep this up the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, I can’t think of anyone else who could play the role he plays as well as he does and with the same bang for the buck. His energy is the kind you want on the ice and in the dressing room. With the Canucks, he’s a difference maker for a minimal cap hit. With the Canucks in a good position to make some noise in the postseason, I’d dare say he’s more valuable with the team now than any future asset they may get in return.
Which brings me to a related point.
As an unrestricted free agent to be, his cap hit is about to increase. And when I think of Burrows’ situation, it’s hard not to refer back to Matt Cooke’s a few years ago. Before unrestricted free agency, Cooke checked and agitated opponents, and when he was placed in a more offensive roles (with Morrison and Naslund) for a stretch of games, he produced. He was a fan favorite back then, much like Burrows is now.
Here are Cooke’s stats in the 3 years before his UFA contract:
Here are Burrows’ stats in the last 2 years plus the first 62 games this year:
Cooked averaged 0.17 goals, 0.28 assists and 0.45 points per game in the 3 years before he hit unrestricted free agency; Burrows is averaging 0.14 goals, 0.19 assists and 0.33 points per game.
After the lockout, Cooke signed a 3-year/$4.5 million deal. Plagued by injuries, he couldn’t live up to the contract expectations and only put up 28 goals, 43 points and 71 points in 204 games during the life of that contract – an average of 0.14 goals, 0.21 assists and 0.35 points per game. His current contract pays him $1.2 million this season and next.
I’m not saying Burrows is likely to follow in Cooke’s career path. I think it’s fair though to stop and think about where his current market value actually lies. He’s a great deal at a $483,333 per season cap hit, but given the expected decrease in the salary cap, I’m hesitant to commit big bucks and a long term contract just yet. As a 40-point player who can plug and play in a scoring or a checking role, I have no problem with giving him a 400%-plus raise. But if he is, in actuality, a 0.33 point per game checker currently on a hot streak, then I’d hope his next contract reflects that as well.