As reported a month ago by the Free Press, the Detroit Red Wings were prepared to bring Jakub Vrana back to the fold in order to showcase him ahead of the trade deadline.
Vrana has been in the minors since early January, sent there originally on a conditioning stint after he was reinstated to the Wings on Dec. 16 following two months in the players assistance program. Vrana has played just 39 games in a Wings uniform since being acquired at the 2021 trade deadline, but his offensive gifts show in the 22 goals and 10 assists he has in that span.
While the Wings found no takers when Vrana was placed on waivers Jan. 3, his play in the minors over the past month shows he has his game in order, and the Wings can afford to be generous to facilitate a trade.
Most of Vrana’s $5.25 million salary this season already has been paid. He has a year left at that cap hit, but the Wings can afford to retain as much as 50%, and that would be cheaper and quicker than buying him out this summer, which would cost $3.8 million spread over the next two seasons.
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Vrana would seem to have assuaged questions regarding his performance. He had just one point his first eight games, but he had not played hockey, or even practiced, for two months. He has 10 points the last nine games and is riding a six-game point streak (four goals, four assists).
“If you play well, you play hard defensively, you’re going to have the puck more and play more offense,” Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon said earlier this month. “He’s no different than a lot of guys that need to focus on that. But I think Jakub’s got his legs underneath him, finally. He obviously missed a lot of time. He’s found a way to have fun with the game again. It’s good to see he’s in a good place. The last little bit he’s been good.”
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The Wings created an opening by placing Lucas Raymond on injured reserve. He has not played since suffering a lower-body injury Feb. 10 when he collided with teammate Ben Chiarot during practice.
The Wings take a three-game winning streak up against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, one of nine games remaining before March 3.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.
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Next up: Oilers
Matchup: Red Wings (24-20-8) at Edmonton (30-19-5).
Faceoff: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday; Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).