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End of season review: Andre Burakovsky


End of season review: Andre Burakovsky

Throughout the coming weeks, Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Andre Burakovsky

Position: RightWing/Left Wing/Center

Shoots: Left

Age: 20 [turns 31 Feb. 9]

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 198

Games: 53

Goals: 9

Assists: 13

Points: 22

Penalty minutes: 10

Plus-Minus: Plus-12

Average Ice Time: 12:55

Playoff games: 11

Goals: 2

Assists: 1

Points: 3

Penalty minutes: 0

Plus-Minus: Plus-2

Average Ice Time: 12:25

Contract Status: 2 years remaining on 3-year, $2.7 million contract [2015-16 salary: $925,000; cap hit: $894,166]

Strengths: In his rookie season Burakovsky showed why the Capitals made him their first selection [23rd overall] of the 2014 NHL draft. He possesses excellent speed, a wickedly quick release and proved in the playoffs that he can take a pounding along the walls as well. As a result, Burakovsky saw a fair share of ice time on the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and is a candidate to start the 2015-16 season there again.

Room for improvement: The reason Burakovsky did not play in more than 53 games in the regular season [and sat out three playoff games] is because Barry Trotz never completely trusted his defensive instincts and that is an important trait to have when matched with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Even though he finished with an impressive plus-12, Burakovsky had a tendency to make risky plays that resulted in turnovers and that’s something Trotz would not tolerate from a young player. By the same token, Burakovsky did an excellent job staying out of the penalty box this season [five minors] and in the playoffs [none] and has a very bright future in Washington.

Memorable Moment: Burakovsky practically won Game 4 against the Rangers by himself. One night after Trotz described him as having “boy strength,” Burakovsky flexed his biceps by scoring the first two playoff goals of his career in a 2-1 win over the Rangers, giving the Caps a convincing 3-1 series lead. [At least at the time it seemed convincing.]  With 3:31 remaining in the second period, Burakovsky found space in the high slot and beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with a tracer over his right shoulder. On his first shift of the third period Burakovsky struck again, fending off the back-checking Ryan McDonagh and beating Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.

Quotable:  “I just want to go out there and show Barry that I belong on the ice and not in the stands.” – Burakovsky on April 21, after being a healthy scratch for three playoff games against the New York Islanders

2015-16 Expectations: Is Burakovsky too young to play on a top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom? Is he good enough to replace Marcus Johansson or Troy Brouwer on the second line? Is he a right wing? A left wing? A center? Those are the questions facing the Capitals’ coaching staff regarding Burakovsky heading into next season. If the Caps cannot find an experienced goal scorer for the top line through a trade or free agency, Burakovsky seems the most likely to earn a spot with Ovechkin and Backstrom and that could result in a major bump in offensive production. With a full summer of strength training and some attention to defensive detail, Burakovsky could prove to everyone he is the answer to the hole at top-line right wing.   

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals


John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.


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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson


Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.