Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Prior to the 2019 Trade Deadline, the future around Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky was less than clear. While there was no indication the Caps were close to dealing the young forward, the 24-year old former first-round pick had been struggling to produce offensively and his name floated in trade rumors for weeks. Flash forward to about a week past the deadline and Burakovsky is among the Caps’ most productive players.
In his first 47 games played of the 2018-19 season, the 23rd overall pick in 2013 had a total of six goals and six assists for 12 points, with a plus/minus rating of minus-5 playing an average of 11:13 a night for Head Coach Todd Reirden. Like years prior, Burakovsky seemed to be struggling with confidence and opposing teams began calling on Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan to gauge the Caps’ interest in dealing the young Swede. Ultimately, the team found no offers to their liking and Burakovsky has rewarded the Capitals’ faith in him in a big way.
In his past 13 games (dating back to before the trade deadline on February 25), Burakovsky has scored three goals and added six assists for nine points, with a plus-1 rating, and was averaging 11:21 of ice time a night heading into Sunday’s 3-2 shootout win over the New York Rangers (in which he played an additional 6:58 of ice time and scored his third goal in the last 13 games). Burakovsky is playing with an apparent increase in confidence and per The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, Burakovsky admitted not being traded was a weight off his shoulders.
His outburst in production over the last 13 games has seen his season totals improve to nine goals, 12 assists, and 21 points in 60 games played. A Restricted Free Agent at the conclusion of the season, the Capitals must extend him a qualifying offer of at least his current salary of $3.25 million to keep exclusive negotiation rights with him or risk losing him to unrestricted free agency for nothing. While his end-of-season totals may not seem warranting of $3.25 million, if he can continue to produce and play consistently, the Capitals may be willing to retain him for that amount.
With 16 games left to play in the regular season, Burakovsky’s elevated level of play as of late is a good sign for both player and team heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Caps will be hoping to defend their title as Stanley Cup champions. If Burakovsky can continue to play at the level he has (an expectation outlined by MacLellan in a recent interview with the media), it will mean nothing but good things for the Caps’ chances at a repeat.
By Michael Fleetwood