Vrana clears waivers, remains with Wings; Nedeljkovic to Grand Rapids for conditioning stint

Detroit News

Detroit — Jakub Vrana is staying in the Red Wings organization — for now, at least.

Vrana cleared waivers Wednesday at 2 p.m., meaning he remains Wings property. What happens in the future remains to be seen.

The Wings made the surprising decision Tuesday of waiving Vrana to alleviate the roster crunch, needing a roster spot for Robby Fabbri, who was to make his season debut Wednesday against New Jersey after having offseason knee surgery.

Vrana has this season and the next one remaining on his contract, with a $5.25 million per year salary-cap hit. The Wings could conceivably trade Vrana, while taking on some of his salary.

Lalonde said he and Yzerman were on in unison on this roster move.

“We talked about it thoroughly,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “Steve and I discuss everything together. We’re on the same page in everything. Ultimately, it’s Steve’s decision and it’s exactly why you need that manager/coach layer. But weighing everything, that’s what we came up with.

Vrana recently returned from a two-month stint on the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program, after having played the first two games of the season with the Wings. Vrana played three games in Grand Rapids last week on a conditioning stint and is scheduled to remain there this week although it’s unclear whether that’ll happen.

“We don’t want to get into the details of it, especially with the situation where Jakub is in, his coming back (from the program) and it’s private and personal to him, but ultimately, we had to make a decision and that’s the decision,” Lalonde said. ” “He does provide goals. Where he is in his game, you hope to get back to obviously and he’s getting his game in order, he’s in the process of getting his game in order, and hopefully to where he was. It’s all part of it. I can’t project where he’ll be for us, or anybody else in time. He’s in the middle of getting his game in order.”

Nedeljkovic heads to GR

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic is headed to Grand Rapids to get in some work.

The Red Wings assigned Nedeljkovic to their minor-league affiliate Wednesday, after the slumping goaltender made only two starts since Nov. 30, the last one on Dec. 8 (which was also Nedeljkovic’s last appearance).

Nedeljkovic, 26, has played in nine games this season, posting a 2-4-2 record, with a 4.09 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

The Griffins have an upcoming six-game homestand (it began Wednesday, with Nedeljkovic already scheduled to start), which should help the goalie knock off some rust.

“We haven’t given up on Ned,” Lalonde said. “I don’t have any problem saying that. We’d like to keep things when we discuss players and the big picture, but we haven’t given up on Ned. We’d like to see him get his game in order and kind of evaluate from there.

“The reality of it now is he hasn’t played in a long period of time. It’s no different than with (goaltender) Magnus (Hellberg), who literally had only played a handful of games in a year-plus, and it was important for him (Hellberg) to go down on a conditioning stint. It would be unfair to Ned in some ways to throw him in if he hasn’t played.”

The move means Hellberg, who has been in net for two of the Wings’ last three victories, will temporarily remain the backup to Ville Husso. Hellberg was claimed on waivers Nov. 23 by the Wings, as Nedeljkovic struggled to find any consistency.

Nedeljkovic finished third in the balloting for Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) in 2020-21, after going 15-5-3, with a 1.90 GAA and .932 SVS. The Wings acquired Nedeljkovic in a trade with Carolina in July 2021.

Nedeljkovic played in 59 games with the Wings last season, with a 20-24-9 record, and 3.31 GAA and .901 SVS.

“No one has a playbook of (how to use) three goalies, I’ve never experienced it; it’s rarely done in the NHL because teams don’t have the luxury of roster spots and cap space,” Lalonde said. “He (Nedeljkovic) was good with it (going to Grand Rapids). I’d be surprised if he doesn’t see that.”

Bertuzzi, Zadina closer

Lalonde said forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (hand) and Filip Zadina (lower-body injury) could return just before, or during, the Wings’ road trip Jan. 16-19.

“They went from week to week to maybe day to day, they both look good,” Lalonde said. “Zadina might be a little longer, his recovery from a hard practice is a lot different than an upper-body (injury). Both are technically in a no-contact situation, but you can see in practice they’ve been fully involved.”

When Bertuzzi and Zadina return, it will also necessitate further roster moves.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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