The Exchange Of Anthony Mantha And Jakub Vrana Was A Good Idea…On Paper

The exchange of Anthony Mantha and Jakub Vrána was a good idea… in concept. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman felt he had reached his limit with Mantha and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan felt he had come to an impasse with Vrána. Both general managers had talented players that were underperforming in their current environments.

As a result, both general managers felt there was no chance at resolving issues with the players, at least in their existing environments. It wasn’t working, but maybe a change of scenery would be beneficial for all parties.

The battle cry among fans for the first year following the trade was “who won the trade?” That debate has quieted over time as it became apparent no team was going to win the trade in the end. Simply put, the trade failed on both ends.

We don’t need to beat a dead horse and fully revisit the issues with each player (I thoroughly detailed Vrana’s plight here). But in summary, Vrana had authority and motivation issues, among other things, and Mantha was labeled lazy and unable to score goals. As a result, the exchange was made.

Both players flourished in their first few games with their new teams, when they were first introduced to a new situation (read: uncomfortable). However, once comfort settled in, both players returned to their old, underwhelming ways.

The exchange was the right move. Yzerman and MacLellan are very bright individuals and both have built Stanley Cup winning teams. The concept, in hindsight, was generally a good idea: Exchange two high-end, underperforming players in hopes that they will flourish in another environment. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work.

The Capitals are reportedly looking to deal Mantha and Vrána has already been dealt from the Red Wings to the St. Louis Blues, as both of the very talented players will unlikely ever reach their full potential. That’s a shame, for the players, and fans.

We can debate the particulars of the trade (draft picks, etc.) and probably will for years to come, but the bottom line is both general managers felt it needed to be done. It just didn’t pay any dividends. That will happen.

We’ve seen other players benefit from a change of scenery. Both Chandler Stephenson and Andre Burakovsky are good examples of players traded away and doing well in their new environments, and Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are good examples of players benefiting from a new life in Washington. Changing a players “scenery” is a worthy endeavor, it has worked many times in the past, but it just didn’t work in the Mantha And Vrana trade.

By Jon Sorensen


Final Musings On The Trade Of Jakub Vrana
Jakub Vrana Traded To St. Louis Blues For 7th Round Pick And Dylan McLaughlin
Assessing The Anthony Mantha and Jakub Vrana Trade 16 Months Later

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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29 Responses to The Exchange Of Anthony Mantha And Jakub Vrana Was A Good Idea…On Paper

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was worth a shot, but you’re right. It just didn’t change the player and who they are.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Agree. I’m interested in that period of time when the player is “uncomfortable” at first, or however you want to classify it – and they produced, showed signs of real potential. If coaches and GM’s could maintain that feeling for a player, maybe different results could be attained.

      • Johann Sebastian Backstrom says:

        Management Seminar cliches aside, it really is a good idea to leave your comfort zone.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Was worth a shot. I credit Yzerman for recognizing and quickly moving on already. Mac needs to get going.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I Mabel at players that just aren’t interested in giving 100% each and every game. (Mantha, Kuznetsov, Semin, Vrana, etc.) The game of hockey just isn’t a passion for them, but a way to pay the bills. I get that. Sometimes we are great at things we have no interest in pursuing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Vrana was traded to St Louis for a 7th round pick. If we get a 6th round pick for Mantha (or better) we win the trade! 😂😂😂

  5. Johann Sebastian Backstrom says:

    The big winner of that trade was Dallas. They selected Wyatt Johnston with the first round pick that the Caps sent to Detroit. He is now their second line center and just turned 20 last month.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I first guessed it back then&still do! And if I had a time Machine I’d go back and undo that trade immediately. You dont trade away 25+ goal Sniper w/ amazing speed who clearly is top 6 winger&pp threat for a unproven goal scorer just bc hes more physical forechecking type player. That’s where Caps go WRONG! GMBM Went Wrong& Laviolette went wrong! You had/have Tom Wilson, you have Tj Oshie. You have bangers and physical players. On top of Ovi is 235-240lbs and throws the body and they can put Protas in the lineup too etc. But you cannot easily find SKILL. Speed&goal scoring is most valuable asset in hockey. They don’t win the Stanley Cup without death scoring like Vrana, Burakovsky etc.
    So it was dumb& still is especially seeing Vrana go to Blues and bang 10-11 goals in 20 games to finish the year. It took Mantha all season to get 10. Just shows Vrana always had it&still does. Just needs opportunity in the top 6. Caps never should’ve traded him.

    • redLitYogi says:

      I agree with you, Anonymous. Vrana was a talent that had proven himself in high pressure situations, especially during our run in 2018. He was one of our most important offensive players in the Penguins series. And then, the next year, it’s as if he has to prove himself all over again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Both Mac and Yzerman traded Vrana away. There is obviously an issue with the player. Vrana had issues in Hershey and with the Czech national team (he won’t play for national team anymore, and won’t do interviews with Czech media)

  7. redLitYogi says:

    There’s an implied moral tone on Mantha here: he’s lazy. He’s unmotivated. He gets comfortable and then he stops trying. What if he’s got some peculiarities in his physiognomy — I assume we’re all unique in that regard — because of which he hasn’t succeeded in the situations he’s been in. For instance, he’s big, therefore he must play like a banger but in fact, he plays a skill game. Maybe it’s as simple as altering the workload. If he’s only going to be able to give you two really good games a week then plan on not playing a whole lot in any other games and save him for the good ones.

  8. redLitYogi says:

    My memory of Vrana’s time here is all positive. In one of the most important games the Caps have ever played, game five against the Pens in 2018, Vrana turned in a performance for the ages. Promoted to the top line with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin, he turned the game around with a brilliant feed to Kuznetsov to tie the game, then made an even better play to score the crucial goal late in the game that put us ahead. Before that promotion, the Caps were losing that game. He scored the first goal in the SC winning game and he was a constant threat. When he manned the half wall on our power play before the trade, I thought he looked very good. He had great touch made great passes and was able to fight for and retain pucks along the wall. But management saw something they didn’t like and he almost never got top 6 ice time. It could be that there was a substance issue or it could be management was as much to blame or it could be both.

    • Anonymous says:

      Select memory. You are discarding all of the issues, which dates back to Hershey.

      • novafyre says:

        Before. He had authority problems in Europe.

        • redLitYogi says:

          I have authority problems myself so that’s hardly a strike against him. But I don’t know the nature of this problems with the Caps — one thing you can give HCPL credit for, it’s that he doesn’t spill.

    • andrew777dc says:

      Vrana’s output was pretty bad for quite some time before the trade. He only lit up from time to time, and this was not related to the lines he was part of, or how much time he had in certain situations. He was given multiple chances, but didn’t have it anymore, most of the time. Hence the trade. The Mantha part didn’t work out. But dealing Vrana away didn’t just come because Lavi simply didn’t like him.

  9. Prevent Defense says:

    Fascinating stuff. Vrana-for-Mantha was much like a Prisoner Exchange

    Interesting it will be to interview Peter Laviolette in about four years. Among the rotten cards he got dealt in his Caps’ hand – Korny Kovid and massive injuries mostly – we can include this bizarre duo. Jake the Snake was ready to physically beat up Pete the coach. Moe Mantha came from DET with great promise. Jake was a world-class talent gone bad, while Mantha, like you said, was really good – for about two months

  10. Anonymous says:

    Vrana had problems with authority. The me day he will grow up and hopefully mature. I think then he might reach his potential.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Vrana had the exact same issues in Hershey.

  12. hockeydruid says:

    Honestly this trade was a wash as neither player was wanted where they were and neither worked out where they went. I’m more upset about getting rid of Chandler and Seigenthaler than Vrana. Wonder how many of those that are upset about not having Vrana are also upset about not having Samsonov or Vanecek? IF Kuzy gets traded will there be as many people who miss him and think it was a bad trade no matter how his replacement turns out or what we receive in return? Trades happen and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes its a draw.

  13. Prevent Defense says:

    AHL Calder Cup Finals Game Three tonight

    What the heck happened to the Hershey Bears? Their opponent isn’t THAT good. Our guys have been THAT bad! One thing I like about Bears coach Todd Nelson: He gets authentically angry and snarly when his guys s**k. Criticizes his spoiled and pampered players to the press. I have trepidation about Fan-favorite NewCoach Carbery. What will he do when the Caps el-Stinko on Thanksgiving Day 2023?

    Phony happy-happy in the NHL is a sham. Sweetie-pie coaches achieve the “L” column. Unfair to drop names but an example is the recently fired ANA coach. He now has a nice, comfortable chair at CBC-Sportsnet in Canada, sitting with 4 or 5 industry “sportscaster” morons. He fits right in! The gentleman was glowingly described in the NHL press as “easy going” and “agreeable”. How about “unsuccessful” ? Any Ducks fans out there, care to comment?

    There’s a reason why Mike Babcock and Scotty Bowman won a lot of games and NHL championships. Barry Trotz and Ron Wilson both qualified as certified “no nonsense” bench bosses. They were the best the Caps have ever had. Nice Guys finish last in the NHL

    • Anonymous says:

      Aside from taking too many penalties in game 2, which arguably was due to a radical change in the officiating approach, the Bears didn’t play too poorly. Three hit posts in the first period alone. Coachella Valley is THAT good.

  14. Dave says:

    With respect to Vrana, there’s been mention that you can’t “show up” your coach as Vrana did with the staredown after scoring in OT. But apparently sometimes you can.
    A famous story from the 1994 Rangers:

    “He’s the worst coach I ever played for,” he said. Amonte explained that it was Messier that did all the X’s and O’s and all Keenan did would rip players apart. Then he relayed a story I’ve never heard about Adam Graves whom Keenan would dress down often. “There was a fight in from of the bench and Gravy beats the tar out of him – probably threw 50 punches – throws the guy down. Now he standings in front of the bench – points his finger at Keenan and says ‘You’re f***ing next asshole!’ And Keenan never messed with him again.”

  15. Prevent Defense says:

    Spectacular stories, gentlemen! Dave thanks thanks THANKS for the Tony Amonte and Adam Graves recall. Putting Keenan in his place – very good!

    Kinda miss the real NHL? I sure f****ng absolutely passionately miss it!

    – Remember Caps Team Captain Chris Clark having a major internal rumble with my favorite injured Cap, Mike Green? [Probably 2006] Green ran his trap one too many times. Clark closed it! [Green was still sporting his stupid Mohawk at the time]

    – NYI Kenny Linseman (the “Rat”) torqued-off his teammates one time too many. NYI regulars passed the word to the Flyers (that evening’s opponent) that Linseman was for sale, they wouldn’t defend him against hostile forces. Surely, several burly Flyers beat Linseman mercilessly that night. He got the memo

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