The Capitals’ stunning trade of Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik for Anthony Mantha on Monday afternoon caused more than a few rumbles throughout the league.
In adding Mantha, who is under contract through the end of the 2023-2024 season, the Capitals added a player who has never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game and reportedly had fallen out of favor in Detroit.
The same happened in Washington with Panik and Vrana, according to general manager Brian MacLellan.
“He's a good young player,” MacLellan said of Vrana. “We won a Cup, he was a part of it. I think part of it was I think Jakub's a little frustrated with where he's at here within the organization, probably wants a little more ice time, wants more responsibility and there was a tugging war between coaching staff and staffs that have had him and the way he was playing. So I think we had a frustrated player and so we tried to move on from that.”
Vrana was scratched from the lineup for the team’s games against the Devils on April 2 and April 4 but returned on April 6. Last Friday, he scored his first goal in a month.
According to MacLellan, Vrana didn’t ask for a trade, but he sensed that the 25-year-old was frustrated in Washington.
“No, I’m not saying he asked for a trade, I’m saying I see a frustrated player,” MacLellan said. “Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but the body language is frustrated and I think we gave it some time to see if we could work it out and we moved on from it.”
The same was true of Panik, who signed a four-year, $11 million contract with the team before the 2019-20 season. This year, he’s played in 36 games and has three goals and six assists.
On April 7, the team waived him to clear cap space. Once he cleared, he went to the taxi squad and saved the Capitals a fraction of his $2.75 million cap hit.
“I think Richard came in, I think he's played well,” MacLellan said. “He was a little frustrated with his role. He would like more ice time, a little more speciality team play. It never seemed to click for him here. He's had periods where he's played really well for us. And then had other periods where I don't think he got, in his mind, enough ice time and enough opportunity.”
In Detroit, and specifically on one of the worst teams in the league, both will get an opportunity they may not have had in Washington.
“So the trade for him, gives him a chance to move up in a lineup and get more ice time,” MacLellan said of Panik. “I think it's going to be good for him, good for him to show his skill and an opportunity to play a lot more than he would here.”