Anthony Mantha and Jacob Varna assess the business after 16 months

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

On trade deadline for the 2021 NHL regular season, Washington Capitals General Manager Brian McClellan created Last minute deal with Detroit Red WingsSending fan favorites Jacob Vrana, Richard Panick, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick, in exchange for Anthony Mantha.

McClellan tried to gain some cost certainty with a top-six forward in Mantha, with Vrana moving to restricted free agency with arbitration rights. Vrana also fell on the bad side with head coach Peter Laviollet. Additionally, the Capitals sought to exit under a panic contract, which McLellan and the Capitals did not feature when they signed him to free agency in the summer of 2019.

In this post, we will re-evaluate the blockbuster 2021 trade deadline. Statistics used in this post are courtesy of development of hockey And natural stat trick, The contract information is courtesy of cap friendly, If you would like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please visit our NHL . seeanalytics terminology,

logic behind business

Many fans on social media reacted harshly to the package required to receive Mantha and land the panic contract. Mentha was the top six winger for the Red Wings to rebuild and was considered the basis of their youth corps at the time, along with Dylan Larkin. Pushing a youngster into Vrana was tough enough, but McLellan had to part with two premium draft picks: a 2021 first rounder and a 2022 second round pick.

In return, Capitals freed up the futures cap space by removing Panick’s contract, which had become a burden. That contract, along with a $2.75M cap hit that didn’t expire until after the 2022–23 season, could have prevented the Capitals from making other moves, such as re-signing the franchise cornerstones in Niklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, who were near. End of their long term deals.

On top of the financial side, it was clear that relations with Vrana’s new bench boss Peter Laviolet had soured. Laviolette did not rely on Vrana late in close games, and occasionally benched him for almost the entire duration due to defensive accidents. In a March 9, 2021 game against the New Jersey Devils, Wran stares at Laviolette after scoring an OT winner after being benched for the bulk of the game:

It seemed that the value of the season’s conflict had arrived at this point in the relationship between a young player and his coach. Vrana, once looking like one of the franchise’s futuristic solid pieces, seemed to be in LaViolet’s doghouse. He had less deployment, less snow time on the ice, and eventually, it looked like the relationship was not going to go well.

With the trade to Detroit, the Capitals abandoned the conflict in the locker room, while also reinforcing cost certainty. Mantha’s contract does not expire until after the 2023-24 season, with a cap hit of $5.7M. Capitals did not want to risk going to arbitration with dissidents And Talented player who had a solid contribution to the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship run.

McClellan and the front office have let other players out for arbitration in the past, and it didn’t go down well. The most recent example was Chandler Stephenson, who took a deep run on the Capitals, but eventually hit a higher cap in arbitrage than the Capitals expected. This was a major reason McLellan sent him to Vegas instead for a minor pick in the 5th round.

The Capitals, being an experienced leadership team, are going to set the salary limit every season. Every dollar counts, and that’s why both Vrna and Panik were packed with picks for Mantha. Mantha is fit in the team’s physique, big hallmarks and has top six capable scoring abilities.

The Red Wings were able to weed out a player who probably wasn’t going to stay long in Detroit for a young talent that more fits their team’s rebuilding timeline, and made two valuable choices. . With the Capitals takeover earlier, they were able to pick up Sebastián Cosa as their potential goalkeeper of the future to pick up the package to move on in the draft.

Ultimately, time will tell if the move was the right one, but let’s take a look at the performance of Mantha and Vrana (with a sprinkling of a bit of panic) to understand the returns of the trade.

Aggressive production and capture

Arguably, the most important statistical component you will see in the top six scoring wingers is their on-ice production. Let’s take a look at their scoring rates per sixty minutes during five-on-five games:

In the last two seasons, Vrna has outsold Mantha in terms of production rates when it is normal for sixty minutes of play. The flip side to this is that Varna skated in fewer games and eventually fewer minutes on the ice, which would have skewed the data.

In 26 games with the Red Wings last season, Vran scored 13 goals, 6 assists for a total of 19 points. Mantha scored 9 goals in 37 games last year, 14 assists for 23 points, battling a crippling shoulder injury at the start of the season in a tie against the Panthers.

Now, let’s look at their goals for ice capture and percentage:

In the last two seasons, Mantha had very solid possession numbers, coming in above the 50% limit for shot attempts for Corsi for and Fenwick for. Vran struggled in this regard, where he was on the ice for more shot attempts than effort. This is to be expected, however, as Vrana went from a playoff caliber team in Washington to a rebuilding squad in Detroit. Mantha had a solid CF and FF percentage in Detroit prior to his final season, so Mantha continued his trend of solid possession games.

Vrana’s value in GF% is a driving factor for a large part of its overall value as ahead. He drives aggressive production, and thus sees a higher percentage of goals than he does. Vrna, on the other hand, struggles defensively, so the quality of his chances on the ice scales in the sub-50% range compared to the suggestions we see here.

Targets above replacement value

Now that we’ve looked at production, let’s take a look at these players’ goals above replacement (GAR) values, which places their value above a replacement (average) level player. First, we’ll look at their actual GAR value, then we’ll look at their expected GAR value (xGAR).

These values ​​confirm what we know about these players on the ice. Vran’s value derives primarily (almost entirely) from his offensive ability of equal strength, but his defensive performance reduces his overall value.

As for Mantha, he is strong offensively even when in strength, but is worth above replacement level defensively, which ultimately brings him slightly above Vrana’s total GAR value. I included Panick’s values ​​here to show why Capital had to unload him and pay Detroit to take his contract.

Here are his xGAR stats:

Vrna’s xGAR figures are aggressively much higher than his actual GAR value, as he generates a lot of expected targets and chances with his overall offensive ability in relatively short periods of snow. This adds to his value, but we also see that he is still a player below replacement level defensively. Mantha is at a solid 11.9 xGAR, but doesn’t blow anyone off at all by any of their GAR figures.


Trading Vrana outside of DC was a tough pill for most fans to swallow. As the team’s only cup win and an important part of the pinnacle of the Ovechkin era, trading Vrna was a blow. Unfortunately, with Vrana potentially entering restricted free agency with arbitration rights, the Capitals sought cost certainty and a top-six player who suited the mold and team identity.

Mantha fit that mold and had several years of team control remaining on his contract. Mantha added a little more defensive stability with a slightly less offensive production output, but with other forwards on this team who could produce offensively, it seemed like a worthwhile move at the time. Time will tell if this is a trade the Capitals have to regret.

by Justin Trudell

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