As the NHL’s trade deadline approaches, we’re going to start hearing more and more reports about players the Colorado Avalanche might be interested in. The latest comes to us from Pierre Lebrun of The Athletic. In his Notebook this week, Lebrun lists the Avalanche as one of the team who have expressed interest in Washington Capitals winger André Burakovsky.
Teams are calling and the reigning Cup champs are certainly listening to their offers. The 23-year-old winger has fallen out of favour this season in Washington, having been scratched on multiple occasions. But he’s also a first-round pick (23rd overall in 2013) with obvious talent.
Arizona, Vancouver, Colorado and Dallas are among the teams that I believe have looked at him but I think that’s just scratching the surface. There would be other teams that would at least inquire. It’s a situation that screams change of scenery. Teams love a buy-low opportunity with a guy that has a ceiling.
As Lebrun mentioned, Burakovsky is a young player with a ton of skill that might just need a change of scenery in order to reach his potential - sounds an awful lot like Tyson Jost to me.
This is the type of player Joe Sakic should be kicking the tires on. A buy-low candidate with a ton of potential that fits into the team’s age group. The fact that Burakovsky can generate scoring chances would make him more appealing to an Avalanche team that needs to build a legitimate middle-six forward group.
Playing down the lineup in Washington, Burakovsky produces shots at a rate of 6.7 for every 60 minutes played. That is the same pace at which Mikko Rantanen generates shots. No one is going to compare the two players, but it just highlights that while Burakovsky only has six goals and 12 points through 44 games this season, he’s generating shots. His shooting percentage is nearly five points lower than his career average, so once that regulates we should see his goal total jump up.
When he’s on the ice, Burakovsky makes a big contribution to his team’s offense, the problem is that he seems to have fallen out of favor with Capitals head coach Todd Reirden, resulting in a career low TOI average of 11:25 per game.
All the advanced metrics read like a player that is playing a lot better than his point total would suggest. A change of scenery doesn’t always help, but with a player like Burakovsky it’s worth the gamble - especially if the price isn’t too high.
The question is, how much would he cost?
Elliotte Friedman spoke to this in his 31 Thoughts article this week.
On Burakovsky: The Capitals have asked for a couple of mid-to-high round draft picks in exchange (seconds and thirds would be a good get) for him. That would give them more flexibility and assets to chase what they need.
The Avalanche are a team that has an abundance of those. Thanks to the Matt Duchene deal, the Avalanche don’t only own Ottawa’s first round pick, but they also own their third. Would the Capitals part with Burakovsky for two 3rd round picks - one of which is going to be in the top-65 of the draft?
They might, and if the Avalanche could get him for that price they’d have to pull the trigger.
One factor that is undoubtedly pulling down Burakovsky's value is the fact that he is an RFA this summer and his qualitying offer is set to be approximately $3.5m. That's a big gamble to take - luckily the Avs have more than enough cap space to easily handle that contract in the short term. Let him sign the QA and if it doesn't pan out, walk away after a season.
Some will scoff at the idea of the Avalanche giving up two picks. For a team that is still building their farm system after a few dreadful draft years, giving up picks seems counter-intuitive. But this isn’t an older veteran or a rental. This is a 23-year-old that can grow with the current core of the team.
Fans often overestimate the value of draft picks. After the first round, there is very little variance between picks. They all end up being lottery tickets whether they’re second or seventh rounders (here is a great piece by current KSE Analytics analyst Dawson Sprigings on draft pick value),
If a team is able to get an established NHLer in exchange for mid-round lottery tickets, it’s a deal that should be made. Especially when it’s a team that has a clear 5-year window as the Avalanche do right now. This is a team that needs to build a contender while they have one of the league’s best player making a salary well below market value. Turning 24 later this year, Burakovsky fits into the time table for the Avs much better than prospects that are 3-4 years away from any hopes at the NHL.
He’s not going to solve all the problems, but trading for Andre Burakovsky is the exact kind of move Joe Sakic should be pursuing aggressively. Buying low on a player that would improve this forward group could spark something. He’s an improvement over many of the players currently playing in Jared Bednar’s bottom-nine even if he never does reach his true potential.
Beyond Burakovsky as a player, trading picks to add talent to the lineup shows the current group of players that not only do they have to step up to maintain their spot on the roster, but also that the front office is willing to make moves to help this group take the next step towards a Cup. There’s no tangible measure behind it, but for a team that has struggled with confidence and consistency over the past three seasons, a vote of confidence from the general manager could go along way.