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  • Jakub Vrána Can Be A Low-Risk Fix For Minnesota's Secondary Scoring


    Image courtesy of Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
    Tony Abbott

    It's no secret that the Minnesota Wild needs to fix their secondary scoring. It's also no secret that despite having more cap space to play with than last year, nearly $15 million in dead cap hit limits their options. With a short-term deal at a wing position looking like the most likely route, potential veteran free agents like Tyler Johnson, Mike Hoffman, David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Wennberg, and Jason Zucker fit the bill.

    These moves might put a floor on Minnesota's second-line wing play, but the problem is they may not carry as much upside as you'd like. Each player will be in their 30s, and even higher-scoring options like Tarasenko are defensively flawed and in decline.

    Maybe someone from that group is still worth bringing in, but the Wild should also look for an upside play. They may be able to do so with Jakub Vrána, 28, a free agent who needs a comeback. Vrána would not only offer Minnesota a potential high-end scoring option, but it would be an opportunity to make the most of their precious little cap space.

    First, you can't talk about Vrána without explaining why he's available in the first place. Vrána was a bright young scorer who started his career with the Washington Capitals, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 2017-18 and scoring a career-high 27 goals and 52 points in 2019-20. Then, in the 2020-21 season, the Capitals sent him to the Detroit Red Wings in the Anthony Mantha trade, and things started going poorly for Vrána.

    Injuries struck Vrana in the 2021-22 season, limiting him to 26 games, but the bigger struggles appear to have happened off the ice, as Vrana entered the NHL Player Assistance Program during the 2022-23 season. Since then, the Red Wings waived him and later traded him to the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis waived him in December 2023 before bringing him back to the NHL. In 41 games with the Blues, he only scored 12 goals and 20 points.

    Vrána recently commented on his substance abuse issues for the first time in an interview with Zimakpodcast in Czechia. "When you think you have everything under control, you don't," Vrána said of addiction. Fortunately, Vrána is in a place where he can put these struggles behind him. "Seemingly unsolvable problems can be successfully solved."

    After the experience of recovery, Vrána emphatically states, "I'm stronger now."

    If Vrána is ready to make a successful comeback to the NHL, his skill set fits precisely what the Wild need. He's a volume shooter who scores goals at a higher rate than almost anyone in the NHL. 478 forwards have played 2,000 or more 5-on-5 minutes since Vrána entered the league in 2016-17. Vrana fires off 12.15 unblocked shot attempts per hour, just ahead of Kevin Fiala for 49th in the NHL.

    Even better, those shots directly translate into goals. Here are the forwards who have scored at the highest rate at 5-on-5 since Vrána entered the league:

    1. Auston Matthews, 1.64 Goals/60
    2. David Pastrnak, 1.30 Goals/60
    3. Carter Verhaeghe, 1.24 Goals/60
    4. Jakub Vrána, 1.21 Goals/60
    5. Wyatt Johnston, 1.20 Goals/60
    6. Alex Ovechkin, 1.18 Goals/60
    7. Daniel Sprong, 1.17 Goals/60
    8. Jeff Skinner, 1.16 Goals/60
    T-9. Jordan Kyrou, 1.15 Goals/60
    T-9. Kirill Kaprizov, 1.15 Goals/60

    Is it good to be in the same breath as Matthews, Pastrnak, Ovechkin, and Kaprizov? You can decide.

    For a team that wants to get faster, Vrána is an ideal candidate to put on the second line and let him run wild on opponents. A healthy, productive Vrána would offer a sharp-shooting counterpart to Marco Rossi and Mats Zuccarello to feed, and Vrána's shots should be able to generate more rebounds for Rossi to clean up in the crease. It'd be a much different dynamic than we saw from Marcus Johansson in that spot, who only got 7.97 unblocked shot attempts per hour at 5-on-5 last season, which ranked 11th on the team. 

    Vrána's career was unfortunately derailed to the point where he likely needs to take a prove-it deal. However, from Minnesota's perspective, it's hard to find the combination of high reward and low risk that Vrána presents. Evolving-Hockey's contract projections predict he'll sign a one-year deal for $796K. Even if that number gets bumped up close to the $1-to-$1.5 million range, it feels like an easy flier to take on a player as skilled as Vrána. 

    Minnesota can probably afford to sign Vrána while also bringing in a Perron-type player. If Vrána can't find his game, Perron is a safety net. If Vrána works out on the second line, Perron remains an excellent piece on a third line and second power-play unit. 

    The only risk is that the move doesn't work out. But if that's the case, the Wild have internal and external options to safeguard themselves. There is practically no risk, which makes pursuing Vrána a no-brainer for a team like Minnesota.

    All data from Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise stated.

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    Admittedly I know virtually nothing about this guy other than what Tony wrote. It would seem that this guy could be just the ticket for the Wild if he continues his recovery. At that price point it seems almost too good to be true.

    Edited by Up North Guy
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    i did like Vrana when he was a Cap but i am a bit worried about his smaller size and diminishing speed, although his speed was really really good before so maybe all is not lost.

    however - i think i know who the wild will get. and rejoice you mn-come-back-feel-good-story loving fools - it zucker!

    Reason - plenty but mainly is that i've seen him around the town and that's enough to convince me that something is up and my hunch is that billy is drafting up a proposal for 3 years contract worth 4-5 mil per. with ntc of course.

    now i am not saying anything about this potential signing other than its gonna happen and fact is - i've said plenty lately. so i'll leave that be. but that is what's going to happen. book it. 

    💩

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    1 hour ago, OldDutchChip said:

    i did like Vrana when he was a Cap but i am a bit worried about his smaller size and diminishing speed, although his speed was really really good before so maybe all is not lost.

    however - i think i know who the wild will get. and rejoice you mn-come-back-feel-good-story loving fools - it zucker!

    Reason - plenty but mainly is that i've seen him around the town and that's enough to convince me that something is up and my hunch is that billy is drafting up a proposal for 3 years contract worth 4-5 mil per. with ntc of course.

    now i am not saying anything about this potential signing other than its gonna happen and fact is - i've said plenty lately. so i'll leave that be. but that is what's going to happen. book it. 

    💩

    Zucker lives in the TC with his wife Carly. She is unable to move her kids from a previous marriage due to dual parenting and a court decision. He may very well sign with the Wild but seeing him around town is not a great indicator.

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    I think the key for signing Vrana would be your locker room culture.  If the team tends to go out after games then it could be difficult for Vrana to maintain.  Although if he had a good support group, inside and outside the locker room, he could work out nice.  

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    1 hour ago, Up North Guy said:

    Zucker lives in the TC with his wife Carly. She is unable to move her kids from a previous marriage due to dual parenting and a court decision. He may very well sign with the Wild but seeing him around town is not a great indicator.

    Good for him, her and everyone! The bottom line is he is signing hrre!

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    I thought rumor was the Zuckers divorced. Yeah it would be just like the Wild to go dumpster dive in the recycling bin. Lock him up for too many years with a NMC. Zucker's best years are behind him but that makes him bait for the Wild.  These ODC posts are making me thirsty.

    Edited by MacGyver
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    I kind of agree on the estimated price point. And, for that price, if Vrana doesn't pan out, he can head to Iowa. He's listed at 6' 190 lbs., not big, but not really little either, just a middleweight. However, if he has speed left, that could get him by. 

    The way I see it, he could be an upgrade from Lettieri and Lucchini. That might be a good add. A cheap contract doesn't award him a roster spot, and still allows for a Heidt type of player to beat him out. 

    As for the locker room, I think it is tight enough to help keep Vrana focused and sober. The feeling I get is that they enjoy hanging out with one another, not just downing beers after the game, but actually doing stuff. Plus, some of the guys may not even be legal drinking age! It seems to me that this generation of athletes take better care of themselves physically and may save the alcohol mainly for after the season.

    I suppose with the cap restrictions, we've got to swing at a lot of high reward/high risk types of players?

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    12 hours ago, MacGyver said:

    I thought rumor was the Zuckers divorced. Yeah it would be just like the Wild to go dumpster dive in the recycling bin. Lock him up for too many years with a NMC. Zucker's best years are behind him but that makes him bait for the Wild.  These ODC posts are making me thirsty.

    I bring most immediate and trusty news to all you good folks, believe!

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    14 hours ago, MacGyver said:

    I thought rumor was the Zuckers divorced.

    I don't think so and according to Wiki they are still married and live in Minnesota

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    14 hours ago, MacGyver said:

    I thought rumor was the Zuckers divorced. Yeah it would be just like the Wild to go dumpster dive in the recycling bin. Lock him up for too many years with a NMC. Zucker's best years are behind him but that makes him bait for the Wild.  These ODC posts are making me thirsty.

    I have an inquiring mind so I googled this.  Looks like no official filings have happened but there is some smoke here.
     1) sold Edina home and Jason bought his own home (not with Carly.  Might be tax reasons, who knows) 

    2) recently absent from each others social.  Fame whore’s who live thru social media don’t do this by accident.  
    I know this is a wild site but I’m betting Zuckzy is headed (already gone) to divorce court

    Edited by Pewterschmidt
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    2 hours ago, Pewterschmidt said:

    I have an inquiring mind so I googled this.  Looks like no official filings have happened but there is some smoke here.
     1) sold Edina home and Jason bought his own home (not with Carly.  Might be tax reasons, who knows) 

    2) recently absent from each others social.  Fame whore’s who live thru social media don’t do this by accident.  
    I know this is a wild site but I’m betting Zuckzy is headed (already gone) to divorce court

    Living a part throughout the whole season has to be tough on a marriage

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