The Washington Capitals watched one of their former players hit waivers on Tuesday, as the Detroit Red Wings' decision to place Jakub Vrana on the wire made headlines across the league. Some were wondering if Washington may be interested in re-acquiring the forward, who was traded to Detroit for Anthony Mantha back in 2021, but Vrana ultimately cleared without issue on Wednesday and was re-assigned to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.
Vrana is currently working his way back to the NHL after spending almost two months in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. He entered the program on Oct. 19 and was reinstated on Dec. 16. Right now, he is with the Griffins on a conditioning loan, and through four games, has nine shots and a +/- rating of minus-6.
Here's why the 26-year-old didn't get claimed and why a Capitals reunion wasn't in the cards.
First off, Vrana's cap hit held several teams back, Washington included. The Czech forward is signed through next season and has a hit of $5.25 million. There weren't many teams that would claim him, and the teams that could afford his services didn't need them, especially as he works his way back up to game speed and continues his recovery.
As for the Capitals, Vrana bring back a sense of nostalgia, but the team is facing a forward influx. Bringing Vrana back on board would add another winger to the mix, and in the next couple of days, Washington will be making some tough decisions and likely cuts to open roster spots and allow Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson to return. The team already brought Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on board this season, and Aliaksei Protas and Joe Snively are also up with the big club. So, adding Vrana would make for another cook in an already-full kitchen.
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Plus, the Vrana trade wasn't just to bring in Mantha. General manager Brian MacLellan said there was growing frustration for Vrana toward the end of his tenure in the District. Besides the roster, not much in terms of systems or staff has changed, so it wouldn't necessarily make sense for Vrana to come back if nothing's changed since his last run in D.C.
Then — and this is just opinion, not an official report — Detroit probably waived him with the belief no one would claim him. Vrana is privately dealing with personal matters and going through quite a bit, and a change in organization would be a big move during a rough time. The move also allowed the Red Wings to extend Vrana's conditioning stint as he slowly but surely gets back to form.