By Ian Oland
Jakub Vrana signed a three-year deal worth $5.25 million per season with the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Vrana, who spent the previous five years with the Capitals, was sent to the Red Wings in April for Anthony Mantha. The trade was essentially a one-for-one deal that also saw Washington gain cap space by dealing Richard Panik for picks.
The new contract instantly makes Vrana the second-highest paid forward on a young, up-and-coming Red Wings team that has $20 million in cap space per Cap Friendly heading into the 2021-22 season. Vrana, who scored 8 goals in 11 games with Detroit after the trade which included a career-best four-goal game, is now one of the team’s leaders and will be relied upon every night to play big minutes and provide offense — something that wasn’t the case most nights under Peter Laviolette.
“For me, the opportunity to play for the Red Wings is a lot different than in Washington,” Vrana said in his first press conference after re-signing on Wednesday. “I get more ice time, you know. My role has changed a little bit. I’m looking forward to prove what I can do and show my potential.”
Vrana, who plays on the left wing, was stuck behind Alex Ovechkin on the depth chart his entire career. Last season, the Capitals also found success with Conor Sheary and Daniel Sprong in the team’s middle six, making Vrana’s role tenous most nights.
Despite not getting a ton of minutes in Washington and being seen as a defensive liability by the head coach, Vrana is “one of the league’s most efficient five-on-five snipers since he entered the league.” Per @JFreshHockey, only Auston Matthews, Alex Ovechkin, and Brendan Gallagher have scored at a higher rate at 5v5 in the past three seasons. He scored a career-high 25 goals during the 2018-19 season, the year after helping Washington win its first Stanley Cup.
“You know, it was mixed emotions,” Vrana said in April after the trade was announced. “I was drafted by that club. I had a relationship with that city, with the guys there. At that moment, I was shocked.”
During Wednesday’s Zoom press conference, however, Vrana was excited to continue playing under head coach Jeff Blashill, who the Red Wings re-signed over the offseason. The 2021-22 season will be Blashill’s seventh behind the bench in Detroit.
“We have been honest with each other and tried to get better as a player,” Vrana said. “Work on little things out there I can do better. We had a lot of meetings. We have been sitting down and talking together about stuff. I felt comfortable to open myself and talk about stuff and we had a good talk. I’m looking forward to working with him in the future.”
Vrana said he’s currently in Sweden working out with his coach from his former Swedish team, Linkoping HC. “I’ve been working with him since age 15,” Vrana revealed. The forward hopes to add more stamina and strength so that he’s ready for his new role when he arrives in Michigan for training camp.
“When you go through something like that (Capitals trade), you don’t really know what to expect,” Vrana said. “Everything went kind of quick. From Day 1, everyone was really kind and helped me fit in. I just went there and finished the season and tried to show what I can do. Obviously, this team has great potential and bright future. Like I said before, I’m really happy to join this group… Things are where they are right now but I’m looking forward to building something.”
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