The Washington Capitals have traded forward Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche for second- and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL draft, the team announced Friday. Burakovsky requested the trade, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pending unrestricted free agent forward Scott Kosmachuk was also a part of the deal, but he's unlikely to be included in the Capitals' plans.
Burakovsky, 24, has been the subject of trade speculation since December, and this move comes three days after the team extended the restricted free agent a qualifying offer worth $3.25 million - an overpay given that he has scored 12 goals with 13 assists in each of the past two seasons. Washington did that to retain his negotiating rights, unwilling to let the 2013 first-round pick become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Trading him means the Capitals will get a solid return on an asset, and they now have more salary-cap freedom to re-sign restricted free agent forward Jakub Vrana and potentially add a middle-six forward in free agency next week. With the NHL's salary-cap ceiling set at $81.5 million for next season, Washington has roughly $9.2 million in space, according to CapFriendly.com. If Vrana, who scored 24 goals with 23 assists last season, signs a bridge deal two or three years in length, he's expected to take up slightly less than $4 million of that.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan acknowledged last week that other teams had inquired about Burakovsky's availability.
"We like the player," MacLellan said Thursday. "There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player. We'd like to keep him around, but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back."
MacLellan made similar comments around the trade deadline in February, when it looked as if Burakovsky could be moved. At the time, the Capitals were interested in receiving a comparable young forward in return, rather than draft picks. Burakovsky's production had flatlined with Washington, and he likely requested the trade in hope of a fresh start with a new organization, where he could potentially have an opportunity to move into a top-six role.
After Burakovsky had just five goals and four assists in his first 41 games of the season, he put up seven goals and nine assists in his final 35 games. MacLellan described the season as "frustrating," and that description could also apply to Burakovsky's career in Washington. He has been streaky throughout his five seasons in the league, alternating between showing bursts of the speed and skill that made him an impressive prospect and prolonged slumps that could make him a lineup liability.
Burakovsky scored two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and was again one of the Capitals' best skaters in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes this past postseason. But he was a healthy scratch in six games during the 2018-19 campaign.
The Capitals now have a need for a third-line right wing, and it's possible they could re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Brett Connolly, who scored 22 goals in that role last season. Washington could also target a player from outside the organization, like Joonas Donskoi or Marcus Johansson, who played for the Capitals from 2010 to 2017. The team also recently inquired about Minnesota winger Jason Zucker as a trade target, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, but his $5.5 million salary-cap hit was prohibitive. Dealing Burakovsky could open up that possibility again.
The Capitals currently hold seven picks in the 2020 draft, including two third-round selections.
Coming off a first-round playoff loss to Carolina, Washington has now traded two members of its 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster in the past two weeks in defenseman Matt Niskanen and Burakovsky. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, an alternate captain the past five years, retired earlier this week, adding to the turnover.