EDMONTON, ALBERTA - With more and more scouts drooling over the rapid development of defenseman Brent Burns, the Wild knew it was in a vulnerable position if it allowed the 22-year-old to become a restricted free agent next summer.
There always was the risk of a desperate team knocking on Burns' door with a Brink's truck's worth of cash, similar to what the Edmonton Oilers tried to do with Buffalo's Thomas Vanek last summer and eventually did with Anaheim's Dustin Penner.
So, it wasn't hard to find the irony in Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough announcing Thursday night inside the home of the Oilers that Burns will not be leaving the Twin Cities any time soon.
The skyrocketing blue-liner signed a four-year, $14.2 million extension that locks him up in Minnesota through the 2011-12 season. Beginning next season, Burns will earn $3 million, $3.4 million, $3.8 million and $4 million, respectively.
To put that in perspective, he is making $875,000 this season.
"It just makes me want to work a lot harder and prove that it's good for both sides," said Burns, who sustained a charley horse in Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss and is questionable for today's practice in Denver. "I love it here in Minnesota. I'm really happy. It was tough to get ready and sleep the last few days."
Said Risebrough: "I think his growth in the last year allows us to be comfortable and project that he'll have an impact on our lineup for a long time. When you know and are comfortable with a relationship and a player is moving in the right direction, this is the way to solidify that relationship."
Burns is the only Wild defenseman score this season -- he has three goals -- and entering Thursday's game, he led the team in average ice time (22 minutes, 54 seconds). Since March 11, he has scored seven goals to lead all NHL defensemen.
It's Risebrough's usual policy to not extend contracts in the middle of the season, but he said, "It's a changing business. Even old guys have to adjust."
Right winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard is another key potential restricted free agent, but the Wild can't negotiate with him until after Jan. 1 because it signed him to a one-year deal this season.
Risebrough would not say if he'd now begin negotiations with potential unrestricted free agents Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra.