Red Wings send Jakub Vrana to Blues: Why a deal makes sense for both sides

The St. Louis Blues have acquired forward Jakub Vrana from the Detroit Red Wings, the teams announced Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Red Wings, who will retain half of Vrana’s salary, receive minor-league forward Dylan McLaughlin and a 2025 seventh-round pick in the deal.
  • Vrana, 27, has recorded 32 points (22 goals and 10 assists) in 42 games with the Red Wings over the past three seasons.
  • He was traded to Detroit in 2021 from the Washington Capitals, where he spent four-plus seasons and won a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The Athletichis instant analysis:

Why the Red Wings traded Vrana for so little

Despite his immense offensive talent, signs have long pointed to Vrana’s days in Detroit being numbered. At one point this year, the Red Wings waived him, showing they were willing to lose him for nothing. The seventh-round pick isn’t much more than that, but keeping half the salary and trading him makes it a little cheaper cash-wise than it would be to buy him out this summer. Specifically, retaining salary means the Red Wings cannot retain salary in multiple trades at this deadline, even if their primary work is already done. — Bultman

What the Red Wings can do with cap space

In the past 48 hours, with the trades of Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek, the Red Wings have cleared nearly $12 million in additional salary cap space for next season, even with keeping Vrana. Sure, their departures leave big holes to fill, but Detroit can chase a free agent (although the 2023 free agent class is generally less exciting than usual) or bring in a good player whose salary no longer fits a cap team via a trade . — Bultman

Why the Blues wanted Vrana

The Blues are rebounding from a disappointing season, and GM Doug Armstrong wants to stay competitive. Vrana was appealing because he’s a Stanley Cup winner with talent who needed a change of scenery. With the Red Wings retaining 50 percent of Vrana’s contract, he has a $2.625 million buyout in 2023-24, and Armstrong didn’t want to pass up that opportunity.

When he’s on, Vrana is an exceptionally talented goalscorer. He scored nearly half a goal per game in Detroit, which would project to more than 40 over an 82-game season. Unfortunately, he never played a full season with the Red Wings, due to shoulder surgery before the 2021 season and his entry into the player assistance program this season. His off-puck play has historically been a source of some frustration, but it’s worth noting, he’s shown a definite effort to improve this since returning from his stint in the AHL this year. With a fresh start in St. Louis, the Blues certainly hope that this talented player can put it all together in a new environment. — Rutherford and Bultman

What this means for the Blues

In the past week, the Blues have brought in Vrana ($2.625 million) and Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2 million) and resigned Sammy Blais ($1 million) for a total of $6.825 million. That leaves the Blues with $5.8 million in cap space in 2023-24 with 18 players under contract. Any further significant improvements to the roster would require freeing up salary by trading a defenseman. — Rutherford

Background story

Vrana was drafted by the Capitals at No. 13 in the 2014 NHL Draft. Through 326 career matches, he has recorded 98 goals and 91 assists. The Blues signed McLaughlin as a free agent last year. He has one goal in six appearances for the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

The trade deadline is Friday at 3:00 PM ET: Tune in here for live coverage updates.

Compulsory reading

(Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *