Seattle Kraken winger Andre Burakovsky filled Climate Pledge Arena with smiles on the night of January 19, 2023. Burakovsky’s overtime goal had lifted Seattle to a 4-3 victory over the high-flying New Jersey Devils.
This was the firepower general manager Ron Francis had hoped Burakovsky would add to his roster when he signed the winger to a five-year, $27.5 million free agent contract in the offseason.
Burakovsky brought a championship pedigree, too. The prior spring, he helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. Back in 2018, he was also an important piece of the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup season.
As the Kraken bench emptied to celebrate Andre’s OT winner, he and they couldn’t have imagined it would be Burakovsky’s last goal of the season.
Painful Final Shift
Less than one minute into Seattle’s road game against the New York Islanders on February 7, the 28-year-old Burakovsky made a pass and skated over the blue line. Though he wasn’t touched, he immediately made a U-turn toward the Kraken bench, hunched over in pain. He’d torn his groin.
Over the next three months, Washington’s 2013 first round draft pick (23rd overall) would undergo a series of frustrating, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to rejoin the Kraken lineup. GM Francis detailed what happened at an end-of-season press conference on Thursday at Kraken Community Iceplex.
“He started the rehab plan,” Francis said. “He was getting close to coming back, had another issue that set him back in the same sort of light. We took another look at how we were going to fix it.
“Going into the (March 3) trade deadline, we thought he was going to come back seven days after the deadline. That’s what we were counting on. He was actually tracking really good, had a 45-minute skate, reached for something, and had another setback.”
GM Hoped Burakovsky Could Return
Following Seattle’s final regular season game on April 13, the Kraken announced 6-foot-3, 209-pound native of Klagenfurt, Austria had undergone surgery. Teammates and the front office still harbored hope he could rejoin them at some point on their surprise playoff run.
Francis thought it was possible Andre could be available, should the Kraken reach the Stanley Cup Final. A reporter then mentioned a comment made by Kraken winger Daniel Sprong during his exit day interview. Sprong believed Burakovsky could have returned sooner, had Seattle survived into the Western Conference Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“He’s our medical guy now?” Francis replied, chuckling at Sprong’s diagnosis.
Kraken Overcame Winger’s Absence
The GM spoke with pride about how his team overcame the loss of Burakovsky’s 13 goals and 26 assists in 49 games.
“He went out in February, he was our leading scorer, a big part of our team. We missed him, but also, great job by the guys in our locker room. They didn’t use it as an excuse or a crutch. They continued to fight and battle and have success.”
So, whither the winger?
“We hope and expect that he’ll be at 100 percent at training camp next season.”
— Notes: As far as injuries to anyone else on the roster, the GM said, “Nothing significant. Nothing that absolutely requires surgery. We had some bumps and bruises, but we came through it.”
Editor’s note – It’s possible Sprong was referring to his own injury, rather than to Burakovsky’s