Detroit — What a gut punch to begin the Red Wings’ season.
Coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday morning after the morning skate forward Jakub Vrana will miss a minimum of four months because of shoulder surgery.
Vrana arrived in Traverse City in time for Saturday morning’s practice, and about 10 minutes into the workout, left the ice due to shoulder pain.
Vrana hasn’t been on the ice since then, seeing a specialist earlier in the week for further evaluation.
“He’s had some issues with it. He went through the summer rehabbing it and ultimately re-aggravated it,” Blashill said.. “Unfortunately, it was the first practice. It could have happened three weeks into the season. Ultimately, surgery is the last option. Jakub thought he could get through the season and unfortunately he couldn’t.”
After arriving from Washington in a deal for Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline in March, Vrana, 25, made an immediate offensive impact.
In 11 games with the Wings, Vrana had eight goals and three assists, including a four-goal game, giving a stagnant Wings offensive attack a jolt.
Having a bigger role and with more ice time available than he had in Washington, many analysts felt Vrana was in for a career-best type of season with the Wings.
“He’s a guy that going into the season we had penciled in some big roles, opportunity to score goals for us,” Blashill said. “It opens up a top-six spot and a power-play spot for somebody.”
Vrana, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year contract worth $15.75 million ($5.25 million salary cap hit) in August.
With Vrana now out for most of the season, it creates a ripple effect throughout the Wings’ lineup. There are jobs available in the lineup, chances for more ice time for certain players, and expectations heightened for some players as Vrana’s loss offensively will be felt.
A player such as Filip Zadina, who struggled last season offensively, will be counted to produce much more than the six goals he scored last season.
Vrana’s absence also creates at least one job among the forwards, with players such as Bobby Ryan, in camp on a professional tryout, and youngsters Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno all in contention for a regular spot.
Ryan had a goal and an assist, as well as the shootout winner, in Wednesday’s 4-3 exhibition victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
“A guy like Bobby Ryan, Lucas Raymond or Joe Veleno, do they make the team? Is there a more direct avenue?” Blashill said. “With the two young guys, they’re going to have to play great. Bobby is going to have to play great. But if they play great, there’s an avenue there for them.”
Raymond and Veleno were both expected to make their exhibition debuts Thursday against Buffalo.