The Washington Capitals have signed Jakub Vrana to a bridge deal, inking the young forward for two years. The deal will carry an average annual value of $3.35MM. GM Brian MacLellan released a short statement:
Jakub is a highly skilled player with a tremendous upside and is a big part of our future. We are pleased with his development the past two seasons and are looking forward for him to continue to develop and reach his full potential with our organization.
Vrana, 23, was the most important RFA the Capitals had this summer, and one that should be a key part of their team for years to come. After giving them just a taste of his offensive ability in 2017-18 by scoring 13 goals and 27 points in the regular season, the following year came as a breakout for the Czech forward. Scoring 24 goals Vrana finished third on the team behind only Alex Ovechkin (51 goals) and T.J. Oshie (25) and locked himself into the second-line left wing spot. Picked 13th overall in the 2014 draft, it’s obvious he has an even higher ceiling than what he has shown and should only get better throughout this two-year bridge deal.
A short-term contract like this was necessary for the Capitals as they try to navigate a tricky salary cap situation. After signing Vrana they sit just $935K under the cap ceiling with two restricted free agents left to sign in Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos, meaning they simply couldn’t have gone longer with his bridge deal. Buying out any of his unrestricted free agent years for instance would have meant a huge cap increase, something that Vrana likely wasn’t too keen on either.
Though he’ll still be a restricted free agent at the end of this contract, Vrana will be under team control for just two more seasons meaning his next contract will be quite the raise if he continues on this development path. With Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom both unrestricted free agents next summer, the Capitals needed this two-year term to give them some cost certainty. It’s going to be tight if the team wants to re-sign both veteran players, but with another cap increase (however small) coming next summer the possibility still exists.
Today is about Vrana though, and securing a solid contract that at worst puts him in a great spot for arbitration hearings in 2021. An increased role in 2019-20 isn’t out of the question, and more powerplay time could easily result in a career-high in points.