An Analysis of the Jakub Vrana/Anthony Mantha Trade in Hindsight

On trade deadline day, Steve Yzerman and the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings traded Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, Washington’s 2021 1st round pick (now 24th overall), and Washington’s 2022 2nd round pick. We believed when it happened that this trade benefited the Detroit Red Wings in every way possible, and that was confirmed by Vrana’s strong finish to the regular season, as well as Mantha’s disappointing performance in the playoffs.

Following the trade, Jakub Vrana scored eight goals and registered three assists for eleven points in the eleven games he played with the Red Wings. Those eight goals were only three less that the eleven that he scored in thirty-nine games with the Capitals, and he did so with thirty-four fewer shots. Vrana averaged almost three whole minutes more in ice-time with the Red Wings, and had an even penalty drawn to taken ratio, as well as a +1 +/- rating. Vrana’s +0.16 would have been the fourth-highest on the Red Wings alone, however his production from Washington made it a +4.15 score, catapulting him to the top of the Wings’ AB list by four whole points. Vrana would’ve been the fourth-highest Capital as well, trailing only Dmitry Orlov’s +6.56, Justin Schultz’s +5.27, and Brenden Dillon’s +4.99. With Washington, in thirty-nine games played, Vrana scored eleven goals and registered fourteen assists for twenty-five points in 14:22 of ice time. He was +9 during that span and had a slightly negative penalty drawn to taken ratio of 3:4. Career-wise, prior to this season, Jakub Vrana had a +4.54 career AB score. With this season and two different teams, one being among the worst in hockey, Vrana’s career AB dropped a miniscule -0.08 points to +4.46, which is still incredibly impressive for a fifth-year player. Vrana has never had an individually negative AB season in his five-year career, and even registered a +11.06 individual score in 2018-19, which was the best by any Capitals player by three points. Vrana’s contract expired when Detroit played its final game of the season, and he will become a restricted free-agent this offseason. The arbitration analyzer projects his closest contract comparable to be New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey, who currently makes $5 million AAV.

Anthony Mantha played fourteen games with the Washington Capitals after the trade, in which he scored four goals and registered four assists for eight points. In Detroit, he scored eleven goals and registered ten assists for twenty-one points in forty-two games. He averaged almost a minute less ice time in Washington than Detroit. Mantha had positive penalty taken to drawn ratios on both teams (7:8 in Detroit, 4:4 in Washington), and was -14 during his time with Detroit. His AB score in forty-two games with the Red Wings was -7.54, and a -0.63 during his fourteen games with Washington. That -7.54 number would have been one of the worst scores on the Red Wings’ -93.41 AB team this season, and it was the worst on Washington’s by almost four points.  Mantha makes $5.7 million AAV and is under contract until the conclusion of the 2023-2024 NHL season. In the playoffs, Mantha registered two assists in the five game series loss to the Boston Bruins, but had six crucial penalty minutes late in some of those games, later coming back to hurt the Capitals. Career AB wise, Mantha has only registered one positive individual AB season since he entered the league in 2015-16. His Career AB score is a -2.97, and his -7.37 score this season was his career-worst.

In this deal, the Capitals also lost Richard Panik, who, despite his -5.12 AB score this season, is also a career positive AB player. Panik had one goal and three assists in the four games he played with the Red Wings this season and makes $2.75 million AAV until the conclusion of the 2022-2023 NHL season. The Capitals’ 1st round pick they also included in this deal will be twenty-fourth overall, giving Detroit their seventh pick in the first three rounds. Detroit has their own 1st, Washington’s 1st (Anthony Mantha trade) , their own 2nd, Edmonton’s 2nd (Andreas Athanasiou trade), the Rangers’ 2nd (Marc Staal trade), Vegas’ 3rd (Tomas Tatar trade), and their own 3rd, as well as an extra 4th and 5th round pick in addition to their own. They are poised for another big draft under Steve Yzerman, as they secured the 6th overall selection following the NHL draft lottery on June 2nd.

In conclusion, Detroit weaponized their cap space to acquire Panik’s deal for a second rounder, and ended up getting Jakub Vrana, who has a chance to positively help this franchise return to relevancy, in addition to a first round pick in a very interesting draft class. We think this trade is masterful work by GM Steve Yzerman, as this trade has the chance to be a franchise altering one in our opinion. It will certainly be interesting to see what Detroit does in the offseason, as they have a good amount of cap space, and an incredible number of draft picks. Much more to come.

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