It's 2021 all over again for Jakub Vrana.
Just like when he joined the Red Wings at that year's trade deadline, Vrana has been lighting it up for the Blues since being dumped by the Wings at this year's deadline.
Vrana has four goals in five games with his new team, including two Wednesday night just hours after taking a skate blade to the face during the team's morning skate and needing 25 stitches to close the bloody wound.
Wearing a full shield to protect his face, Vrana proved why Steve Yzerman and the Wings had traded for him in the first place, first knifing through the Wild defense and beating Marc-Andre Fleury with a short-side wrist shot and then blasting a one-timer past Fleury on the power play. All in the span of a few minutes.
When Vrana came to the Red Wings from the Capitals in 2021, you might remember he scored in his first game, then scored four times in his third game on his way to eight goals in 11 games. He teased again last year with 13 goals in 26 games after missing most of the season due to shoulder surgery. And in the second game this season, Vrana scored to help the Red Wings beat the Devils.
He would not play for Detroit again for the next four months.
After spending two-plus months in the NHL's player assistance program to treat an off-ice issue, Vrana couldn't regain his spot in the Red Wings' lineup and was ultimately waived and sent to the AHL. Any team in the NHL could have claimed Vrana (and his $5.25 million cap hit through next season); no one did.
The Red Wings recalled him for three games before the deadline in hopes of sparking interest around the league, but again, Vrana had very few suitors. Instead of buying out his contract this summer, the Wings wound up sending the 27-year-old sniper to the Blues for a seventh-round pick and an AHL-er just to dump half his salary.
Asked thereafter why the move made sense, Yzerman said, "I can't speak on necessarily what is best for Jakub Vrana, but it’s my responsibility to do what’s best for the Detroit Red Wings. And believe it or not or like it or not, I felt this was the right decision for the Red Wings, that this isn’t working and I don’t have a lot of faith that it’s going to work and that it’s just time to move on. Accept that and move on."
Vrana, it appears, has moved on just fine.
We'll see how long it lasts.