Detroit — The best part about the last few days for Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana, after agreeing Tuesday to a three-year contract worth $15.75 million?
He can now concentrate solely on hockey.
“It was kind of a process, but I’m happy it works for both sides,” Vrana said Wednesday from Sweden on a Zoom call.
Vrana’s salary cap hit is $5.25 million per season, and the term being three years, the Wings were able to extend the contract one year past when Vrana was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
The deal has benefits for the team and the player.
“It worked for both sides,” Vrana said. “I’m real excited to join this group in the upcoming years and really excited for these three years.
“This is part of hockey (contract negotiations) … There are moments like this you go through. I just want to prepare for the season and focus on the stuff I can do best and let (his agent) handle it.”
Vrana had filed for arbitration, and a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday before the two sides reached agreement. Vrana asked for $5.7 million, and the Wings countered with $3.65 million.
The sides essentially met in the middle, avoiding the messy task of arbitration.
“I’m happy it’s over and I can move forward preparing for the season,” Vrana said.
Vrana made a powerful impression upon joining the Wings last season, after being acquired (along with Richard Panik and draft picks) from Washington for Anthony Mantha.
In 11 games, Vrana had eight goals (four in one game) and three assists and showed the offensive ability to be a significant piece in the team’s rebuild.
Playing on a championship-caliber Washington team, Vrana saw a limited role as a young player stuck in the middle of the lineup.
There’s a different opportunity with the Wings, one Vrana is excited to explore.
“For me, the opportunity to play for the Red Wings is a lot different than in Washington,” said Vrana, who is training with his junior coaches in Sweden preparing for next season. “I get more ice time, my role has changed a little bit. I’m looking to prove what I can do and show my potential.”
Never having been traded before, Vrana didn’t know what to expect. But the transition to the Red Wings was seamless.
“Everything went kind of quick and since day one everyone was real kind and happy to fit (me) in,” Vrana said.
“I just went there and finished the season and tried to show what I can do. This team has great potential and a bright future and I’m really happy to join this group.”
There was speculation in Washington that Vrana and Capitals coach Peter Laviolette didn’t see eye to eye, and Vrana was a healthy scratch before being traded to the Wings.
Since arriving in Detroit, Vrana has enjoyed dealing with coach Jeff Blashill.
“We have been honest with each other,” Vrana said. “I’m trying to get better as a player and work on the little things out there I can do better. We had a lot of meetings, sitting down and talking about stuff and I feel comfortable to open myself and talk about stuff.
“I’m looking forward to work with him in the future.”
Vrana has renewed relationships with Czech Republic national teammates Filip Zadina and Filip Hronek in Detroit. Having friends on the roster also eased the shock of being traded.
“When you have someone from your own country who can speak the language, and those are guys I’ve played with on the national team, so I’ve been in touch with them before the trade,” Vrana said. “They’re both great people and have made the transition easier for me.”
Since acquiring Vrana, general manager Steve Yzerman has stayed busy fortifying the Wings’ lineup.
Defenseman Marc Staal and forward Sam Gagner were re-signed, Yzerman acquired goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and defenseman Nick Leddy in trades, while also signing free agent forward Pius Suter and defenseman Jordan Oesterle.
The Wings look like an improved team. Vrana is eager to push forward.
“It’s a rich organization with a great history, they’ve been doing real good for such a long time,” Vrana said. “I’m really happy to join them. Things are where they are right now but I’m looking forward to building something.”