Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
With the salary cap lower than expected, key players entering the final years of their deals, and with some big contract decisions coming in the next few seasons, there was no doubt that Capitals’ General Manager Brian MacLellan would likely be forced to make some moves to relieve cap space. After trading defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers and veteran Brooks Orpik announced his retirement, MacLellan traded away another member of the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup team, dealing former first-round pick Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday afternoon.
While Burakovsky was one of the pending Restricted Free Agents the Caps extended a qualifying offer to, it soon became clear the Capitals were going to have to find a way to squeeze Burakovsky and fellow pending RFA Jakub Vrana under the cap ceiling with limited space available. However, per Capitals’ Senior Writer Mike Vogel, Burakovsky requested a trade, and the team subsequently dealt him to the Colorado Avalanche for minor league forward Scott Kosmachuk and two draft picks in 2020.
A former first-round pick of the Capitals (23rd overall in 2013), Burakovsky debuted with the Caps in 2014-15 as a 19-year old rookie, and showed promise, but his five seasons in the District were plagued by inconsistency and injury, and Burakovsky found himself playing bottom-six minutes this past season. MacLellan told reporters that had Burakovsky stayed, the Caps would have used him in a third-line role, which ultimately was not what the 24-year old forward envisioned going forward.
Burakovsky played in 328 games withe Capitals, scoring 62 goals and adding 83 assists for 145 points, with a plus-34 rating and average of 12:45 of ice time a game. Burakovsky’s close friend and fellow first-round pick Tom Wilson, wished Burakovsky well on social media, to which Burakovsky responded:
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) June 28, 2019
Thanks bro. Love you, keep your head up!
— andre burakovsky (@andreburakovsky) June 28, 2019
While he struggled with injury and inconsistency, Burakovsky was also beloved in Washington and his arrival in 2014-15 coincided with the return to contention for the Capitals. In his first NHL game he scored his first NHL goal, becoming just the 13th player ever in Capitals’ history to do so and just the fourth-ever player to do so in his NHL debut. And while he struggled in the 2017-18 season, Burakovsky helped the Caps in their run to the Stanley Cup, scoring two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to help the team advance.
Burakovsky, like many players, also gave his time to various charitable efforts in the community, further endearing him to the Capitals’ fan base. While Burakovsky’s time in D.C. did not go as he nor the team had hoped, a change of scenery might very well be the thing the young forward needs to find his game.
He will forever be a part of the team that rewrote Capitals’ history and his contributions to that run won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Good luck Andre and thank you!
By Michael Fleetwood