ST. PAUL – San Jose GM Doug Wilson saw a fatal flaw in his team and knew he didn’t have the luxury of time to fix it.
So he acted both quickly and decisively at Friday's 2011 Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center, shaking up the first day of the draft by trading established young forward Devin Setoguchi, blue-chip prospect Charlie Coyle and a 2011 first-round pick to the host Minnesota Wild for defenseman Brent Burns and a second-round pick in next year's draft.
Wilson said he believes he owed it to his aging team, which reached the Western Conference Finals this season only to lose to Vancouver in six games, to address the need for a top-four defenseman. He contends the 26-year-old Burns is just that guy.
When Burns became available, Wilson paid a steep price, but one he considers fair, for the 6-foot-5, 220-pound puck-moving defenseman who flirted with 20 goals and 50 points for the Wild, a team with far fewer offensive players than the Sharks.
"The two hardest things to acquire in this business are center men and defensemen, and we're fortunate to be very strong down the middle," Wilson said minutes after the trade was announced. "We've been looking for a while to add defensemen. When this type of guy does become available, it comes at a cost, and you don't want to fill one hole and create another. We feel we're a better hockey team today."
With many of San Jose’s core players getting older – including top center Joe Thornton and top defenseman Dan Boyle – Wilson threw caution to the wind in making the deal.
"We're right in, we think, our wheel house, our window with our team," Wilson said. "Bringing in a guy with his age and his type of game, it complements where our team is at."
Desperation also fueled the other side of the trade, according to Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher.
He feels his team, which has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2008, was not progressing fast enough and he saw an opportunity to inject a number of quality players into the lineup at once.
"The opportunity to add four first-rounders, for the lack of a better term, was too appealing," Fletcher said.
The Wild added Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin with its own pick at No. 10 and then used the No. 28 pick, from San Jose, to take St. John Sea Dog forward Zack Phillips. Setoguchi, 24, was a first-round pick of the Sharks six years ago and Charlie Coyle was San Jose's first-round pick last year.
"We gave up a very good piece in Brett Burns and a very good human being in Brent," Fletcher said. "I think our time frame needs to be stretched back a bit: we need to add more young players. We very quickly assembled a lot of good young talent. Obviously, we need to work in some pieces, we need to try to fine-tune our roster for next season. We created some holes and created some opportunities but that will be the work for the rest of the summer. I can't state how important we felt and I felt that we needed to add talent. I think we did that today."
Talent was certainly omnipresent in this deal.
Setoguchi got dealt a day after signing a new three-year contract. He has already topped the 30-goal mark in his young career and could be a first-line winger with the Wild. He had 22 goals and 19 assists in the regular season and registered 7 goals – including overtime goals in each of the first two rounds – and 3 assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"You never know when these deals come available, and, believe me, we did not sign Devin to make this deal, we signed Devin because he's a heck of a hockey player," Wilson said. "At drafts sometimes things come available. We can't always dictate the timing of when deals happen."
Coyle, drafted No. 28 last year, is considered one of San Jose's top prospects. He had a very good year at Boston University and was a dominant player for Team USA at the 2011 World Junior Championships, helping the Americans to a bronze medal.
"There is no way this deal gets done if Charlie Coyle's not in it," Fletcher said. "We feel he's one of the top young power forwards in the game. He can play center, he can play wing, he can play first line to third line. He adds a lot of versatility, a lot of size, a lot of character (and is a) tireless worker on the ice.
"I think that size and that versatility and that character is very, very important for our team as we continue to fill out our forward group. You get the scorer in Setoguchi, the power forward in Coyle and then we got just a terrific offensive talent in Zack Phillips."
Wilson feels just as strongly about the addition of Burns, who at 26 is already one of the best two-way defenseman in the League. He had 17 goals and 46 points this past season and represented the Wild at the All-Star Game.
Burns has one year left on his current deal before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency.
"This is a guy that's not just a puck-moving defenseman," Wilson said. "He's a 230-pound guy who can skate. He's got all the elements."
The blockbuster draft-day deal Friday gives the Sharks the top-four defenseman they had been seeking. The 26-year-old Burns had 17 goals and 29 assists last season.
"We are getting a player who is dominant and coming into his own," said San Jose GM Doug Wilson. "We think Brent will play even better with our players."
San Jose had to pay a high price and Wilson lamented trading "two home-grown players" in Setoguchi and Coyle. He told reporters inside Xcel Energy Center that "I might be biased but defenseman is the most important position on the team." He admitted to deciding that this postseason's playoff loss to Vancouver left him feeling like the Sharks back-line needed some boosting.
Setoguchi overcame a lackluster start last season before finishing with 22 goals and 19 assists. The deal comes a day after he signed a $9 million, three-year contract.