The native of the Czech Republic has established himself as a top-six forward and will be a restricted free agent again in two years when the deal runs out, giving the Capitals an opportunity to extend him to a long-term contract.
“Jakub is a highly skilled player with a tremendous upside and is a big part of our future,” Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “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.”
The Capitals signed Vrana to a team-friendly deal, helped by the fact Vrana had no arbitration rights and by recent comparable deals agreed to by restricted free agents Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen in Toronto. Also dealing with limited salary cap space, the Maple Leafs passed on a long-term deal with Kapanen and instead signed the 22-year-old forward to a three-year, $9.6 million contract June 28. Johnsson signed a four-year, $13.6 million deal. The Capitals have made comparable “bridge” deals in the past, notably for Andre Burakovsky — who was traded to Colorado in June — when they signed him in 2017 to a two-year, $6 million deal.
According to CapFriendly.com, Vrana’s two-year deal includes a $2.7 million base salary for the 2019-20 season with a $1 million signing bonus. Vrana, who was taken 13th by the Capitals in the 2014 draft, will receive $3 million in base salary for the 2020-21 season.
After re-signing Vrana, the Capitals have just shy of $1 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. Washington, which signed three bottom-six forwards in free agency — Richard Panik, Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway — has 13 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies under contract.
Defenseman Christian Djoos and forward Chandler Stephenson, both restricted free agents, remain unsigned after filing for arbitration this month. Djoos’s hearing is scheduled for Monday, and Stephenson’s is Aug. 1, although restricted free agent negotiations usually don’t reach that point.
With so little salary cap space remaining, the Capitals will only be able to fit one more player on the NHL roster.