ARLINGTON, Va. – Andre Burakovsky stood on the ice prior to Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators with his name announced to the crowd as one of the Capitals starters. The announcement was met with plenty of cheers and applause from the red-clad fans in the stands. Just two days prior, many would have predicted Burakovsky would be playing for a new team at this point.
As he stood on the ice Tuesday at Capital One Arena wearing Capitals red, however, he was exactly where he wanted to be.
“Now I'm here,” Burakovsky said. “I'm happy to remain with the Caps and just continue to play good and do my thing.”
As the NHL trade deadline approached, much of the focus surrounding the Capitals was on who they would add, not who could potentially go. But Burakovsky was one Caps player who remained on everyone’s watch list as potential trade bait.
Burakovsky has struggled to find consistency throughout his career and, in 2018-19, he has yet again suffered through an inconsistent season. He has the talent to be a top-six forward, but he has not been able to perform like one for an entire season. As a result, Burakovsky was moved throughout the lineup and has spent time both on the fourth line and as a healthy scratch.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan also fanned the flames for the rumor mill in January as he said about his plans for the trade deadline, “I think the only thing we're going to look for is, is there a hockey trade to be made, salary for salary, player for player in the forward group.”
That seemed like an obvious reference to Burakovsky.
But Monday’s trade deadline came and went with no trade and suddenly a player many had assumed would be on the move is staying put to be a part of the Caps’ title defense.
“It's good for the group I think,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously no one wants [Burakovsky] to be gone. He's a big part of our team and a big part of our locker room and a guy who fits in extremely well with the guys and has a lot of talent.”
Burakovsky was adamant that he had not been paying attention to the trade rumors, but there must have been some measure of relief for him once the clock finally hit 3 p.m. and he became locked in with the organization for the remainder of the season.
Constantly thinking about whether you’re going to be shipped out to another team and another city at any given moment can take its toll.
“It just changes a little bit of the dynamic and I'd say what's going on behind the scenes a little bit with some players that were thinking maybe they would be, could be potentially leaving the team, going someplace else,” Todd Reirden said. “It happens for every player whether you're a name that's been mentioned in the media or not, the players are human. It's part of our business. The best players in the world have been traded. It's always a little bit in the back of your mind as a player and if the players say that it isn't, it's not true.”
Keeping Burakovsky likely means the Caps will stick with their third line of Burakovsky, Lars Eller and Brett Connolly going forward. That is the same third line from last year’s Cup run and it has been clicking of late.
Burakovsky has only 20 points this season, but eight of those points have come since Feb. 7. Since that time Eller also has two goals and seven points and Connolly has six goals and nine points.
With 18 games left in the season plus the playoffs, Burakovsky is going to have his off nights. But when he returned to the lineup after getting scratched in the postseason last year, Burakovsky played a huge role in the championship run with two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Now that he doesn’t have to think about the possibility of a trade anymore, Burakovsky can focus all of his attention and effort into getting back to that championship level for the only NHL team he has ever known.
“I'm happy to be here,” Burakovsky said, “And I think I had a lot of confidence before the trade deadline here and hopefully continue on the same path.”
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