SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks paid big money to sign defenseman Paul Martin as a free agent during the offseason, giving him a four-year, $19.4 million contract, according to generalfanager.com.
That investment paid off during the regular season when the cool, calm, defensive-minded Martin, as the Sharks expected, turned out to be the perfect partner for Brent Burns, freeing Burns to go on the attack.
Martin, who has made the postseason in each of his 12 NHL seasons, has been an even bigger factor for the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Martin finished second on the Sharks with 17 blocked shots during San Jose's victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their Western Conference First Round series. He tied for the team lead with plus-four rating and was part of a defensive corps that helped hold the Kings to 11 goals over five games. Martin also killed penalties and played on the power play.
What's more, Burns led the Sharks with eight points, five of those coming at even strength.
The Sharks will play the winner of the first-round series between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators, which is tied 3-3 with Game 7 at Honda Center on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET: NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN, FS-W, FS-TN).
"You can't understate his value to our group, his effect on the partner he's playing with but also I just think the steadying calmness that he brings to the game in key situations," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of Martin. "He's been there, done that. He's seen almost everything. He's played a lot of playoff games and has a real calming influence on our bench and on our team at critical times."
Martin has played 90 playoff games, fourth most on the team and more than any other Sharks defenseman. He went to the playoffs six times with the New Jersey Devils, who chose him in the second round of the 2000 NHL Draft. He made the postseason five times with the Pittsburgh Penguins, reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2014. That's the closest Martin has come to winning the Stanley Cup, but he learned a lot of lessons along the way that should help him and the Sharks this postseason.
"It's a roller coaster, a lot of ups, a lot of downs," said Martin, 35. "So much can change in a split second. And at the same time, something very little that you do can change the momentum of the game, it can change the outcome of the game. A lot of it is just maintaining composure. You have to have that energy, be focused, be smart. There's just a lot of little things you take each year that help you give yourself the best chance to win."
Burns, who had multiple defensive partners last season, has been paired with Martin since training camp opened.
"It's been awesome," Burns said. "He's very calm. Just a great guy. It's been huge to me having a solid partner. He's always looking to pass to me, and he's a great passer, too."
Martin, who in Pittsburgh skated with Kris Letang , like Burns an offensive-minded defenseman, said "it's been great" skating with Burns.
"He's easy to get along with," Martin said. "I had known him a little bit before when he was with the Wild. He has a passion for the game and that energy that he brings every day. And that skill set that sets him apart from most other people in the league, especially as a defenseman.
"We took our bumps early in the year. You have to get to know him and figure out where you're going to play and build that confidence together, but now I think we just play and it kind of takes care of itself."