Dear Red Wings: Vrana and the burgeoning, albeit short-term, offense; awaiting Hronek deal

Red Wings sign left wing, still have some key RFAs to sign

Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana, acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals, adjusts his helmet before an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana, acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals, adjusts his helmet before an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Detroit Red Wings avoided arbitration this week by agreeing to a three-year contract with left wing Jakub Vrana.

Now we wait to see what happens with Adam Erne and Filip Hronek, two key restricted free agents who remain unsigned.


Red Wings offensive group takes shape

Vrana signed for a reported $5.25 million each season through 2023-24. Compare that to the man he was traded for, Anthony Mantha, who carries a contract at $5.7 million through 2023-24. Vrana is 25 while Mantha is 26.

Vrana scored 24 goals in 2018-19 and followed that up with 25 goals the next season. He had 8 points in 23 playoffs games when the Capitals marched to the Stanley Cup, but then failed to register a point in his next two playoff campaigns.

Then he had 25 points in 39 games this past season for the Capitals before the trade. Vrana scored 8 goals and 3 assists for 11 points through 11 games with the Red Wings.

This deal is what we hoped to see after the trade and Vrana’s performance in those 11 games. Personally, I would have liked to see two years instead of three, but let’s be happy about this. I expect him to be someone who scores 25 goals, no less, and there is nothing more valuable than goals in the NHL. Nothing.

Vrana joins the burgeoning Red Wings offensive group of players all here for the relative short-term.

Here’s a look at that group and each player’s term:

I’d expect a two-year deal for Erne, who is 26 years old. He also filed for arbitration, but perhaps we’ll see a settlement for him as well. As I explained last week, most of the time the arbitration process is used to help speed up the contract negotiation.

Givani Smith, 23, also needs a contract. Perhaps that’s two or three years as well.

That list is so low-risk and trade-friendly. You have to love that. This is a group of players who have contracts to play for while Steve Yzerman works to reshape this squad.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings also kept depth center Chase Pearson on for another year. Pearson, 23, was drafted by Detroit in 2015, 140th overall in the 5th round. He played three seasons at the University of Maine, then joined Detroit’s AHL squad the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Pearson scored 22 points in 28 games played this past season with the Griffins. He became a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Again, this is a depth signing. Perhaps he slots in on the 4th line at some point throughout the 82-game campaign. That’s going to be easier to do this year with both the NHL and AHL planning to go ahead with normal schedules and less restrictions.


Filip Hronek is worth how much?

And, as mentioned, we’re waiting to find out defenseman Filip Hronek’s deal. The 23-year-old now has played 167 NHL games -- 16 goals and 64 assists. He led the Red Wings in ice time this past season at an average 23:23 per game. He appeared in all 56 games.

If you look around the league at other young defenseman who help anchor the blue line then you might expect a deal for Hronek that pulls $4 million year on a three to five-year term. Obviously the money per season would fluctuate based on term length. I think he’s worth $3-4 million against the cap right now. I would be very surprised to see Yzerman sign him for longer than five seasons, and ideally no more than three. But probably five because he’s only 23.

After the Vrana signing, the Red Wings remain about $20 million below the cap.



Free agency moves recap:

Pre-free agency moves recap:


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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.