March 21, 2023


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Red Wings shipping Jakub Vrana to Blues: Why the deal makes sense for both sides

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

  • The Red Wings, who will keep half of Vrana’s salary, will get minor league catcher Dylan McLaughlin and a seventh-round draft pick in 2025 in the deal.
  • Vrana, 27, scored 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 over four seasons and won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

Why the Red Wings traded Vrana for so little

Despite his tremendous offensive talent, signs have long indicated that Vrana’s days in Detroit are numbered. At some 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 by keeping half of his salary and trading him, he’ll be a little cheaper in monetary terms than it would have been to buy him this summer. Notably, salary retention means the Red Wings cannot keep salary on any other deals at this deadline, even though their primary work has already been done. – Bultmann

What the Red Wings can do with cap space

In the past 48 hours, with the deals of Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Filip Hronek, the Red Wings have cleared nearly $12 million in salary cap space for next season, even while keeping Vrana. Sure, their departures leave big holes to fill, but Detroit could either chase a free agent (although the 2023 free agent class is generally less exciting than usual) or take a quality player whose salary is no longer up to par for a team weary via trade. – Bultmann

Why wanted blues frana

The Blues are retooling after a disappointing season, and GM Doug Armstrong wants it to stay competitive. Vrana was attractive because he’s a Stanley Cup winner with a talent that needs a change of scenery. With the Red Wings holding 50 percent of Vrana’s contract, he’s reached a $2.625 million deal in 2023-24, and Armstrong won’t pass up the opportunity.

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When he plays, Vrana is an exceptionally talented marksman. He scored nearly half a goal per game for Detroit, which would be more than 40 goals over his 82 games. Unfortunately, he did not play a full season with the Red Wings, due to preseason shoulder surgery in 2021 and his entry into the Player Assistance Program this season. His unfamiliar game has always been a source of some frustration, but it’s worth noting that he’s shown a clear effort to improve on that since returning from his stint in the AHL this year. With a fresh start in St. Louis, the Blues are certainly hoping this talented player can pull everything together in a new environment. – Rutherford and Bultmann

What does this mean for the blues

Last week, the Blues brought in Vrana ($2.625 million) and Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2 million) and re-signed Sammy Blais ($1 million) for a total of $6.825 million. That leaves the Blues with $5.8 million in cap space for 2023-24 with 18 players under contract. Any other significant improvements on the roster would require salary release through a defenseman trade. – Rutherford

background story

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

Trade deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. ET: Tune in here to live updates.

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(Photo: Mike Ehrman/Getty Images)

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