Pondering Jakub Vrana’s future with the Detroit Red Wings

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Things did not go as planned to begin the 2022-23 season for Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana.

The Detroit Red Wings and first-year head coach Derek Lalonde started the season with Vrana penciled in as a top-six forward, but Vrana has had a challenging year due to unforeseen circumstances. The young winger entered the NHL/NHLPA’s Player Assistance Program after the season’s first two games.

Vrana, 26, had been the centerpiece in a trade that sent forward Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals back in 2020-21. Ironically, both forwards have struggled following the trade. Vrana, while in Detroit, has performed well, recording 22 goals and 32 points over 39 games in parts of three seasons. The problem? Since being acquired in the trade, Vrana has only appeared in 39 games for the Detroit Red Wings. If it makes you feel any better, Anthony Mantha has found himself in the pressbox as a healthy scratch lately but has recorded nine goals and 23 points this season for the Capitals in 44 games.

Since returning from the NHL/NHLPA’s Player Assistance Program, the Detroit Red Wings sent Vrana down to the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning stint. The young forward struggled to find his way in the American Hockey League, which prompted Steve Yzerman to place Vrana on waivers with a more extended stay with the Griffins in mind. Of course, when you have a player of Vrana’s potential on waivers, it creates a lot of buzz, but Vrana’s $5.25 million cap hit this year, and next proved too steep for other organizations to claim.

Pondering Jakub Vrana’s future with the Detroit Red Wings organization.

Vrana will undoubtedly be one of the players at the forefront of the minds of Red Wings fans ahead of the March 3rd NHL Trade Deadline.

Will Vrana have been able to right the ship and be recalled by then, or will he still be trying to find his game with the Griffins? Griffins head coach Ben Simon had made Vrana a healthy scratch for two straight games. When asked what Vrana needs to do to get back into the lineup, Simon stated ‘compete; like everyone else, he needs to compete.’ Since rejoining the Griffins, Vrana has recorded one goal and one assist over nine games while skating to a minus -6 rating.

By now, we all know Yzerman can be downright ruthless, and perhaps Vrana was expected to be on the trade block this season regardless of his performance. Kevin Allen of Detroit Hockey Now claims that before the shoulder injury in training camp last season, doctors had recommended surgery in the previous offseason, but Vrana opted to rehab it instead. Then Vrana re-injured the shoulder just ten minutes into training camp, which disappointed the organization.

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It seems as though Vrana’s days with the Detroit Red Wings are numbered. The best-case scenario for the Red Wings at this time is Vrana catches fire and either works his way back to Detroit or becomes a tradable piece at the NHL Trade Deadline, although the Red Wings will likely need to retain some salary. If nothing materializes with Vrana this season, as Helene St. James recently mentioned, don’t be surprised if Yzerman cuts ties and buys out the skillful forward this summer.

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