Sitting in the vast living room of his Texas ranch that serves as a home to a wide array of exotic animals – with a large mounted deer head on the wall over his shoulder – the wooly bearded Brent Burns smiled and laughed his way through a 30-minute introductory Zoom conference Wednesday evening.
Burns, the long-time San Jose Shark who has six All-Star appearances and a Norris Trophy on his NHL resume, joined the Carolina Hurricanes in a notable trade Wednesday. Burns, along with depth forward Lane Pederson, are headed to the Canes in exchange for Steven Lorentz, Eetu Makiniemi and a 2023 third-round pick.
And now Burns, nearing the tail end of his career at the age of 37, has a chance to chase the Stanley Cup with a contender. It’s something that’s important to him at this point in his NHL journey, and he’s suddenly got the team to do it with.
“I’m coming to a time where winning and having a chance to win it all is really all that matters right now,” Burns said. “I’ve chased the boys in red and black around the ice now for a while. They’ve got a great team. They’ve got a lot of young guys that are just flourishing, and it’s a great place.”
Burns has spent the last 11 seasons in San Jose, a place where he himself has flourished into one of the NHL’s most consistent defensemen. He contributes significantly offensively while playing sound defense, and he’s established himself as an All-Star guy on and off the ice.
And for the Hurricanes, who were faced with replacing Tony DeAngelo a season after DeAngelo replaced Dougie Hamilton as that high-scoring right-shot defenseman, the move for Burns made all the sense both on the ice and in the locker room.
“He does bring a lot of energy,” said general manager Don Waddell. “He’s a very upbeat guy. You talk to all of the players who have played with him and he’s well respected. He’s been a leader on his team for many, many years and is a guy that many people look up to. His personality, he’s a good guy who loves to play hockey and enjoys it. We’re going to find him to be a real good fit here for us.”
Burns is obviously a talented player, even on the back end of his illustrious NHL career. While he’s nearing 40 he hasn’t really shown any signs of slowing down. He had 54 points this past season playing on an offensively challenged Sharks team, and he’s produced at least 45 points in every season (apart from the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign) since 2013-14.
And while the pure number of his age may be the main point of concern for Canes’ fans, it really shouldn’t be. Burns, who takes a substantial pride in his physical health, has played in 679 straight games, the second-longest ironman streak in the league, and there’s no reason to believe that’s coming to an end any time soon.
“He’s a fitness guru,” Waddell said. “He’s already talking about when he can get here to start working out with our guys. You always look at age, but everybody ages differently. This is a big man that has played a lot of minutes and been very durable through his career. We think he’s got at least three more good years in him as he reaches the age of 40.”
That three-year window is how long the Canes will have him, as Burns’ current deal expires at the end of the 2024-25 season. Burns is poised and positioned to play that long for sure, as like Waddell said he is a bit of a fitness guru.
From consistent workouts to a self-harvested, venison-heavy diet that Burns discussed in great detail Wednesday, the veteran D-man understands the importance of taking care of himself at this point in his career.
“I’ve loved playing a lot. I love working,” Burns said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m still here, just the passion to work out and the fitness level. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Tim Horton’s and my bag of potato chips, but I’ve really taken pride in getting older and taking care of myself and working out. All that stuff is so important.”
That, of course, makes Burns a great fit in Carolina, where the Canes have established a pretty grind-it out mentality under maybe the NHL’s greatest-ever fitness guru in Rod Brind’Amour.
For anyone who joins the Hurricanes, the immediate excitement to play for Brind’Amour is obvious and apparent the second they start talking about Carolina’s man behind the bench. For Burns, he knows that he and his new head coach share some personality traits that have helped them both reach the extended success they have had.
“He’s a legend of our sport,” Burns said. “I’ve seen him on some of the videos with the intros and getting the team ready, and I’m no different. I’m a huge fan of hockey in general. Just the high energy and passion, I’m excited. I’m probably a little nervous about taking my shirt off in front of him until I’m dialed in and ready to go there.
“But there’s some similarities there. We take a lot of pride in that side of the sport and taking care of ourselves. Obviously for him to be around that long and play at that level it was important for him, and it still is. I would not want to do a push-up contest with him, though.”
And while Burns was traded to the Hurricanes by the Sharks, it was his decision to pull the trigger and make the move to Raleigh. Burns had a no-trade clause in his contract and Carolina was not on the list of teams he could be traded to, but he waived that right with little hesitation because of where the team is at.
Burns wants to win a Stanley Cup. Every player in the NHL does, that’s no secret. And now for Burns, he has a prime opportunity and window in Carolina to try and chase that dream on the back end of his career.
His excitement about the Hurricanes and that opportunity was abundant and apparent on Wednesday afternoon’s Zoom meeting, as he made clear immediately he’s all in on this move to Raleigh.
“That’s the reason why we’re all in this game,” Burns said. “That’s the reason we’re all hitting the squat racks right now. It’s not because of a pure love for that. There’s an end goal. That’s what we’re all thinking about every time we do it. There’s no secret that the team has been very good the last couple of years. Every team at the start of the year wants to win, but you know there’s teams that are in that window. There’s nothing better. It creates so much excitement and energy. It’s awesome. That part of it for us is a no-brainer. It’s a great city. Great fans. Great team. All that does is make you want to get to work and get out there and go.”