Sometimes, a change of scenery can help a player live up to the expectations. For Andre Burakovsky and the Washington Capitals, we are quickly approaching the point where a “second opinion” might be the way to go. The 2013 first rounder has immense talent, but plateaued with three consecutive 12-goal seasons for the Caps.
Burakovsky is a pending RFA and frustrations are growing. Is there a window to acquire the former Erie Otter? If there is, should Ken Holland be exploring the possibility?
Why Is He Out There?:
Burakovsky has established himself as an NHL’er, but hasn’t lived up to the expectations set for him when the Caps selected him 23rd overall in 2013. He’s been more third liner than top-six forward at this point, and hasn’t been able to consistently use his offensive skills.
Burakovsky will require a new contract this summer, and as a pending RFA he is going to likely end up with a slight raise over the $3,000,000 he made a season ago. Yes, the Caps just cleared out some cap space in their deal with Philadelphia, but the club needs to make improvements and has other free agents to re-sign.
It’s very possible that, after three straight average seasons, the Capitals pull the plug on the Burakovsky experiment. They could use the money on a more established option as the window for contention is still very much open.
What Does He Do Well?:
Burakovsky has the tools to be a successful top-six forward in the NHL, there is little debate about that. Whether it has to do with opportunity on a stacked Washington team, or the player just hasn’t adapted to the NHL yet, is still up for debate.
Burakovsky is a fast skater who also possesses strong hands and good size. He’s got a plus shot, and the versatility to play both wing positions. On paper, this looks like a really strong piece. It just hasn’t translated to consistent production yet.
The Austrian-born forward posted a Corsi For five-on-five of 48.5% last year, below the break-even mark and negative relative to his teammates (-.4% Rel). His Fenwick For was slightly worse, clocking in at 48.1% for the season. That too was negative relative to his teammates (-.9% Rel).
Burakovsky shot 12% in 2018-19, which is right around his career average of 12.8%. He managed to fire 100 shots on goal while attempting 178 in 11:08 per game. He was used in a bottom-six role in Washington last season.
All numbers are via hockey-reference.
Here’s a look at Burakovsky’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:
Based on his numbers, Burakovsky has established himself as a third-line player in the NHL. There is reason to believe that, with greater opportunity, he can be much more than that.
In Edmonton, a case could be made that he’d be the club’s second or third best winger right off the hop. That would give him a top-six role and likely an increase in powerplay usage. With his tools, it might be the break he so desperately needs.
What Will He Cost?:
This is the kind of trade that I could get behind if the Oilers were forced into moving Jesse Puljujarvi. Both players have immense skill and good tools, but neither has lived up to the billing. The Capitals would be taking on more risk, but Washington would also be gaining cap flexibility in the trade.
Could that one-for-one be of interest to either side?
Ken Holland is going to have to get creative this summer if he hopes to improve Edmonton’s forward group in a meaningful way. Players like Burakovsky, who haven’t exactly worked out in the current homes, are the prime targets via trade and free agency.
Target players that have underachieved and are good candidates to flourish with a bigger role and with more skill on their lines. Not everyone will pan out, but some will. Burakovsky is a perfect candidate and very well could explode upon arrival in Edmonton. Depending on the price, this could be a very nice get.