What is Red Wings’ next move with Jakub Vrana, Alex Nedeljkovic?

Alex Nedeljkovic’s stint in Grand Rapids has been productive. Jakub Vrana’s has not.

Nedeljkovic will be back with the Detroit Red Wings this week or next. Vrana probably will not return, at least anytime soon, even with the team needing offense (four goals during a three-game losing streak).

Vrana has struggled with the Griffins (no goals, one assist, minus-6 in six games), and as Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde noted after Friday’s game, if he can’t produce in the AHL, he’s not ready for the NHL.

“The hope for Vrana is potential,” Lalonde said. “Right now, he has zero goals in six games in Grand Rapids. Theoretically, that (recall him) is easy to say when you’re not scoring, but the potential of any goal-scorer is something you hope for.”

Even if Vrana were lighting it up in Grand Rapids, would the Red Wings bring him back?

General manager Steve Yzerman surprisingly waived Vrana last Tuesday when the team needed a roster spot to activate Robby Fabbri. Vrana had spent more than two months in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, exiting on Dec. 16.

The decision said a lot about how much their relationship has deteriorated that they were willing to lose a proven scorer for nothing when other options were available (sending down a waiver-exempt player like Elmer Soderblom – who was reassigned on Sunday, or waiving Adam Erne or Magnus Hellberg).

It also spoke to how much Vrana’s stock has tumbled that no team was willing to pick him up for only the full cost of his contract (the remainder of this season and one more year at a $5.25 million cap hit).

Vrana is only 26 but clearly does not fit into the Red Wings’ future plans.

Now it appears the only way this saga will end is with a trade, and that won’t be easy for a player that cleared waivers. Lower-tier teams whose front offices are more focused on winning on the Connor Bedard draft lottery would have no interest. Some playoff-caliber teams don’t have the cap space.

The Red Wings surely would need to retain some salary (the maximum is 50 percent of the remaining value of a player’s contract) and/or take back a salary in return to move Vrana.

If they can’t find a taker, he is likely to remain in Grand Rapids because roster spots will be at even more of a premium when injured players Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina return in the next week or so.

Unlike Vrana, Nedeljkovic remains in good standing with the Red Wings. Lalonde mentioned before his conditioning assignment that the organization has not given up on him. Then he flourished during a three-game stretch in four nights, going 2-0-1, with a 1.63 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.

Nedeljkovic hadn’t played since Dec. 8 and given his struggles with the Red Wings (2-4-2, .409 GAA, .880 save percentage), this was a much-needed stint to regain his rhythm and build confidence.

Conditioning stints are a maximum 14 days, so the Red Wings can opt to keep him in Grand Rapids this week (the Griffins have…

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Read More: What is Red Wings’ next move with Jakub Vrana, Alex Nedeljkovic? 2023-01-09 11:01:00

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