Over the last several seasons the Washington Capitals have been navigating a tricky cap situation, regularly sitting right at the upper limit with very little flexibility. As the 2019 offseason gets underway they have some tough decisions about how to keep their group competitive without overspending. Players like Brett Connolly may end up as cap casualties after earning raises, while others may find themselves on the trade block to free up some room. One of the examples of the latter is Andre Burakovsky, whose restricted free agent situation was examined today by Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.
Khurshudyan breaks down how the Capitals in the past have decided not to issue qualifying offers only to continue negotiations anyway, even using Connolly himself as an example from a few years ago. That’s the tactic she expects the team to use in Burakovsky’s case, given the expensive $3.25MM offer the team would need to extend. Still, it’s not like the young forward wants to go anywhere else:
I love Washington, I love my teammates, I love everyone around — everything, the organization. My goal is to stay, and hopefully I will be able to.
Burakovsky, 24, recorded just 25 points in 76 games this season, the worst scoring rate of his career so far. Originally selected 23rd overall in 2013, he has never seemed to find the offensive production that he experienced in junior. In fact, with a career high of just 38 points through five seasons there is reason to doubt he’ll ever really fully reach his potential.
The Capitals are still in a window of Stanley Cup contention while the core is in tact, but need to find a way to surround Alex Ovechkin and company with a better supporting cast. Connolly, Carl Hagelin, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brooks Orpik are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, leaving some relatively substantial holes on the depth chart. With a new contract for Jakub Vrana the biggest priority of the offseason—except perhaps extensions for Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby—the team has plenty of work to do over the next few weeks.
Still, if Burakovsky could be retained on a more inexpensive contract he would be a very valuable asset. Leaving him without a qualifying offer is obviously a risk, given that it would make him an unrestricted free agent, but if he is committed to the organization it may be the savvy move by GM Brian MacLellan. Teams have until June 25th to submit qualifying offers.