New Red Wings Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik eager for 'a new beginning' in Detroit
Detroit — Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, the newest Red Wings, skated for the first time with teammates Wednesday and they seemed pleased to do so.
It's a new team, a fresh start and a real possibility they’re going to get a bigger chance to contribute than they did in Washington.
Vrana and Panik came over from Washington (along with a 2021 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick) for Anthony Mantha just before Monday’s trade deadline.
“I really was kind of shocked, but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity,” said Vrana, who skated on a line with Michael Rasmussen and Valtteri Filppula. “I’m looking forward to it. I was kind of shocked, but that’s how it is. It’s part of this business and I’m excited to join this group and do some big things.”
Vrana had just gotten vaccinated Monday when he received a call from Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan about the trade.
“Mixed emotions,” Vrana said of his initial feelings. “I was drafted to that club and had a relationship with the city and with the guys there. So at the moment, like I said, I was shocked.
“But when Steve (Yzerman, the Wings’ general manager) called me, and when somebody wants to give you a chance and wants you in their organization, wants to play for their team, it just gives me excitement to come here and do my best to help this group build something here.
"I can create offense, create some momentum, and help the team at the important moments," Vrana said. "It's a new system for me. I'm going to do my best to fit in as quickly as possible."
Along with talking to Yzerman, just the fact of joining a successful Original Six organization was something that Vrana didn't take lightly.
“This is a great historical club, this club has a name, and it's an honor to put this jersey on” Vrana said. “Obviously, when Steve Yzerman called me, at that time (the trade) was really fresh, and it's part of sports. I was shocked, but also really excited and I could see someone that trusts me, believes in me, and gives me a chance to play.
"I'm really excited to show what I can do and prove myself to help this team building something."
Vrana appeared confused by MacLellan’s comments after the trade, saying Vrana was “frustrated” in Washington and probably needed a change of scenery.
“I have read that, that there was something going on, but I don’t really know what happened,” Vrana said. “If that was the main reason, or what was the reason, I don’t know. This is not something I worry about. I want to play hockey. I want to play my best on the ice. If that is what Brian thought, I don’t really know what to say. It’s his thoughts and verdict, and let’s just move on and move forward.”
Vrana was drafted 13th overall in 2014, two spots ahead of the Wings drafting Dylan Larkin in the first round.
Vrana, 25, is a bit younger than Mantha (26), and they are similar statistically. Vrana had 11 goals and 14 assists in 39 games with Washington, while Mantha had 11 goals and 10 assists with the Wings in 41 games, with both players also posting similar career statistics.
Mantha is bigger (6-foot-5, 231-pounds) than Vrana (6-foot, 195-pounds), while Vrana has the edge in speed.
Mantha had a goal and assist in his debut Wednesday with the Capitals, making an immediate impact.
The expectation is both players could thrive with their new teams. Coach Jeff Blashill feels Vrana could be a big piece of the Wings' future.
“He’s got high-end ability," Blashill said. "There’s a reason he was drafted where he was. In a lot of ways he can fill similar roles to Anthony. Who he plays with we’ll fill that out as we go.
"I hope he gets a chance to showcase his abilities (the remainder of the season), but he has to earn that ice time. You have to check well, work and compete at a high level, manage the puck well and produce offense while doing all those things.
“He can be part of a core that’s going to hopefully build this organization."
Panik had two years remaining on the four-year, $11 million ($2.75 million salary cap hit) contract he signed two seasons ago — a deal of which the Capitals wanted to get out.
Panik, 30, had three goals and six assists this season and welcomed the move as well.
“Really excited to be here,” said Panik, who skated with Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner during Wednesday’s practice. “It didn’t work out in Washington. Sometimes things don’t click and hopefully this will be a new chapter for me, a new beginning, and it’s going to go well for both sides.”
Panik was placed on waivers by the Capitals last week — he obviously went unclaimed — giving him an inkling something could happen by Monday.
“I knew I might be part of the trade deadline,” Panik said. “I wasn’t sure, but I was kind of expecting it. It wasn’t like it was a real surprise. But like I said, it just didn’t work out for me and it’s good for both sides to kind of go (opposite ways).
“A new beginning, fresh, and I want to prove myself I can play at this level. I just want to earn a spot on the team. So far this season is not how I expected. These 12 games I’m going to focus to bring my best game and help the team win games.”
Blackhawks at Red Wings
► Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Red Wings (15-23-6) and Chicago (20-18-5) open a two-game series. ... The Wings are 1-4-1 against Chicago this season. ... The Wings will be without LW/C Robby Fabbri (upper body). ... The Blackhawks are four points out of the final playoff spot, with one game in-hand. ... LW Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) leads with 21 goals.