- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Washington Capitals signed forward Jakub Vrana to a two-year contract worth $6.7 million, the team announced Tuesday. The move locks up the young top-six forward for a few more years as he continues to grow in the NHL.

Vrana, 23, was a restricted free agent entering the summer and the team made him a qualifying offer. But a bigger contract was long expected for one of the team’s best young players.

“Jakub is a highly skilled player with a tremendous upside and is a big part of our future,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “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.”

Vrana put up 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists) in his sophomore year with the Capitals after a 27-point rookie year. He was the Capitals’ third-leading goal scorer in 2018-19, trailing just Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, and 23 of his 24 goals came at even strength.

Vrana blossomed once he became a regular starter for the Capitals in 2017-18, the year they won the Stanley Cup. He was the only forward to play all 82 games for Washington last year.

The Czech native had little to say about his contract situation when the Capitals cleaned out their lockers for the season on April 26, but he indicated he wanted to stay in Washington.

At a $3.35 average annual value, Vrana will make less than fellow top-six forward Tom Wilson, who got a long-term deal last offseason with a $5.17 million AAV. But Vrana’s is a two-year “bridge” deal rather than a long-term contract, and he will have the opportunity to cash in further in 2021 if he keeps up his game.

Despite the signings of three new wingers during free agency that promise to shake up other forward lines, Vrana will remain the Capitals’ second-line left wing.

Washington now has about $936,000 left in salary cap, according to the website capfriendly.com. The team has two restricted free agents still unsigned — forward Chandler Stephenson and defenseman Christian Djoos, both of whom filed for arbitration. Because the minimum salary for NHL players is $700,000, the Capitals likely will have to someone on their current roster to the minors or part ways with Stephenson or Djoos.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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