The New York Islanders need a talented forward to help bolster their roster. Did one just become available for nothing but a $5.25 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons?
On Oct.19, Vrana entered the NHL’s Player Assistance Program, and recently he returned to Detroit and had been on a conditioning stint with Grand Rapids (AHL). After three games, the Red Wings extended his conditioning for another three games before placing him on waivers Tuesday afternoon.
The Red Wings needed to open a roster spot for forward Robby Fabbri, who is returning from injury. But Vrana wasn’t the only route the Red Wings could have gone, which makes this decision confusing and troubling.
Vrana never made a statement, nor did he have to, on why he entered the assistance program. Right now, he’s working on getting back into game shape and being a producer for whatever team gives him the opportunity.
At the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman made a blockbuster trade with the Washington Capitals, sending star Anthony Mantha to Washington for Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 2nd-round pick.
He likely departs the Red Wings after playing just 39 games, with 22 goals and 10 assists. If he can get back to his game, he has been a big-game player with tremendous offensive upside throughout his seven-year NHL career.
There’s more to this situation than just Vran getting re-accustomed to the NHL game, as teams will likely have to discuss the other mitigating factors before placing a claim.
So how does Vrana have familiarity with the Islanders?
Drafted by the Washington Capitals with their 13th pick in 2014, Vrana played five seasons for the nation’s capital. Four of those seasons came with former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz at the helm, along with current Islanders head coach Lane Lambert serving as the associate coach.
Those three, along with the rest of the Capitals roster, won the Stanley Cup.
Could that entice the Islanders to take a chance on Vrana?
Another little tidbit is that Varan and Mathew Barzal share the same agent, J.P Barry.
The Islanders are short a handful of right-wingers at the moment, and Vrana being a left-winger, may not be the best fit at the moment. But Vrana would have an understanding of the system, a similar system he played in Washington under Trotz.
It’s very rare in today’s NHL that a player of his skill set can be had for nothing, and it seems, on the surface, that putting in a waiver claim for Vrana is a low-risk, high-reward move.
The Islanders currently only have $2.737 million in available cap space at the moment, but they could place Adam Pelech on LTIR. Pelech has not skated in over a month with what is believed to be a concussion.
The caveat to that is that if Pelech is on LTIR, the Islanders cannot accrue deadline cap space.
Pelech has not skated in over a month with what is believed to be a concussion.
Per CapFriendly, a player must be expected to miss at least 10 games and 24 days of the season. It can also be applied retroactively from the date of injury. Pelech will miss his 12th game Tuesday.
After Nov. 1, the waiver order is determined by point percentage, in reverse standing order, meaning the Islanders are 18th on the waiver wire. Also, with Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri still on Injured Reserve, there are two roster spots open at the NHL level.
We will find out by 2 PM ET on Wednesday if any team placed a claim for Vrana.
The likelihood is that no team will put in a claim for Vrana, which is why Yzerman took the chance.