WASHINGTON —When it comes to the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has a specific idea of the type of deal he is open to.
“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,” MacLellan said on Friday.
One obvious implication there is that forward Andre Burakovsky, 23, who has been a healthy scratch five times in the past 14 games, is available. Burakovsky is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and his qualifying offer of $3.25 million will be steep for a player who has struggled to maintain his production. Burakovsky has just nine points in 38 games (five goals, four goals).
MacLellan did not mention Burakovsky by name, but he bests fits the description among the forward group. He had 12 goals and 13 assists (25 points) in 56 games last season shortened by injury and inconsistency. But he’s always shown flashes of brilliance. Remember his two-goal performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Burakovsky turns 24 on Feb. 9. He was Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2013, No. 23 overall.
“He’s a good young player. He’s still young,” MacLellan said. “I think sometimes we look at him as being around a long time but he’s 24-years-old and he’s still learning the game. He’s taken a step back but we anticipate that he will find his game and become a better player after he goes through all of this.”
Burakovsky was scratched four games in mid-December and returned to play in nine games in a row. But he had just one assist during that stretch and no goals and coach Todd Reirden benched him again against Boston on Thursday night.
“I don’t know that it’s lingering. He’s an RFA and he’s a young player,” MacLellan said. “We have his rights for two more years. We’re trying to help him to get to that next level as a player to become more consistent. He’s got above skill, above average shot, above average skating and those should translate into being a solid NHL player. If he can do it consistently and do things the coach wants him to do within the system he’s going to be a good player.”
In other news, MacLellan said that defenseman Christian Djoos is beginning off-ice workouts as he tries to recover from complications following a hit to his thigh in a Dec. 11 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Djoos suffered complications called compartment syndrome and needed surgery to relieve the pressure of blood filling up in his quadriceps muscle. He has missed 12 games so far in an injury that is expected to take weeks, if not months, to recover from.
But Djoos’ off-ice workouts could expand to include some light skating and the Caps will have a better sense of his timetable to return over the next two weeks. Djoos had been a healthy scratch just twice through the first 30 games.
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