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Does Jakub Vrana make sense for Ducks right now?

One of the eye-catching moves in the NHL the first week of 2023 came out of Detroit on Tuesday when the Red Wings put forward Jakub Vrana on waivers.

Thus, the team occupying last place in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks, gets the first crack at claiming Vrana on Wednesday. Next in line happens to be the Ducks.

How about exploring the pros and cons of such a move and if a claim of Vrana makes any sense for the Ducks at this stage of their rebuild?

Pro: Not so long ago – in April of 2021 – Vrana was skilled enough that the Red Wings stepped up and acquired him from the Washington Capitals in the Anthony Mantha deal. He has 189 points in a combined 323 career games with the Capitals and the Red Wings. His career highs came in Washington in 2019-20 – 25 goals and 52 points.

Con: Issues have undermined his career. He’s been limited to 39 games since getting traded to Detroit. Vrana had shoulder surgery after aggravating it in training camp last season, missing a big chunk of the campaign as he returned in March. This season, Vrana entered the NHL/NHLPA’s Player Assistance Program in October and was reinstated in mid-December.

Pro: Vrana’s upside is undeniable and life is all about second chances, isn’t it? If it works out, he could be a top-six piece for the Ducks, whom they would essentially get without having to give up an asset in return. First off, the Ducks have the cap space to make it work. Vrana’s age, too, is a mark on the positive side of the ledger. He is 26 and if he gets his life in order, Vrana could be part of the core when the Ducks turn the corner.

Con: If Detroit, the former employer of Ducks GM Pat Verbeek, felt it was time to cut ties with Vrana, then perhaps Verbeek should proceed carefully, too. Verbeek, remember, would have overlapped for part of Vrana’s time in the Red Wings organization. While Vrana’s cap hit is $5.25 million this season and next season, perhaps Verbeek concludes the money is best spent elsewhere.

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It’s a risk worth taking unless, behind the scenes, they become aware of some red flags that aren’t readily apparent to anyone else. From a financial standpoint, it isn’t like claiming a player at a minimal cost, the way the Ducks did when they grabbed Brett Leason off waivers from Washington in October. Vrana is a $5 million-plus player. But at one point, at least one team, the Red Wings, thought enough of him to sign him to a three-year deal worth $15.75 million in August of 2021.

ICE CHIPS

Defenseman John Klingberg was injured when the Ducks played – and lost 5-0  – in Dallas on Dec. 1. With the visiting Stars facing the Ducks on Wednesday, this will be the first time Klingberg plays his former team. Klingberg played his entire career with the Stars – 552 games in eight seasons – before signing with the Ducks as a free agent in the summer. …

Another month, another honor for Ducks prospect Pavel Mintyukov of the Saginaw Spirit. Mintyukov, who was taken 10th overall by the Ducks in the 2022 NHL draft, was named the OHL Defenseman of the Month. The 19-year-old was the league’s Defenseman of the Month in October,  November and December, the first to record the achievement. With the Spirit, Mintyukov had 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) and was a plus-eight in 10 games in December.

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