The Capitals continue to cut ties with key members of their Stanley Cup Championship team from 2018.
Some might look at the deal as cutting ties with another piece of the core, especially when you look at the other pending departures and championship pieces already gone.
That's the wrong way to look at it.
This is strictly about managing the salary cap while maintaining a championship caliber roster during the back-end of Nicklas Backstrom's, Alex Ovechkin's and Braden Holtby's prime final years. Burakovsky was going to cost $3 million plus under the cap, space the Caps couldn't afford on a forward who managed just 36 goals over his last 196 games.
If Connolly stays, most of their cap space would be absorbed in retaining those two players, which is now possible after Washington granted Burakovsky's wish to leave.
Connolly is everything that you would want to keep. A grinder who has continued to come into his own, during his time in Washington. Burakovsky is more talented than Connolly and finished last season strong, but Connolly is much more consistent.
The Caps could also look outside the organization in free agency, possibly bringing in a player on a short deal for around the same money Connolly is asking for. Former Cap Marcus Johansson is among the players rumored and connected to Washington this offseason.
That's why the Burakovsky trade makes sense. Washington picked up two draft picks, a second and third in the 2020 NHL entry draft, plus gained some flexibility to bring back a key top-nine forward, while still retaining the ability to do any kind of deal with Vrana.
They might even have enough money left to bring back Chandler Stephenson under this scenario.