The Vancouver Canucks announced this morning that they’ve placed forward Jake Virtanen on leave. Virtanen was not at practice this morning. Over the past 24 hours, allegations of sexual assault and rape have surfaced against Virtanen.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) May 1, 2021
Vancouver Canucks Place Jake Virtanen on Leave
On the ice, it’s been a struggle for both Virtanen and the Canucks. Vancouver’s first-round selection in 2014, the 24-year-old Virtanen has just five goals and no assists in 38 contests this season.
Virtanen’s never panned out as the sixth-overall talent he was promised to be, but things were finally looking up for his hockey career last season. He notched 18 goals and 36 points in the COVID-shortened season, both career-highs. Virtanen cooled off considerably in the playoff bubble, however. He tallied just two goals and three points in 16 games as the Canucks were eliminated in the second round.
What This Means for the Future
Due to the severity of the allegations, Virtanen will likely not re-join the team for the remainder of the season. He signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract prior to the start of the 2020-21 campaign. With his offensive struggles and multiple big extensions looming for Vancouver, there were rumours starting to surface of a potential buyout of his deal this offseason. Pending the outcome of these allegations and the following investigation, it’s possible that Virtanen may see his contract with the Canucks terminated as well.
All that means is at this point, it’s extremely likely that Virtanen has played his last game as a Canuck. If either a buyout or contract termination occurs, Virtanen would technically be free to pursue other career options as an unrestricted free agent. However, it’s also a possibility that Virtanen has played his last game in the NHL. In past similar situations, if a player has opted to continue their hockey career, it’s happened overseas. Regardless, it’s close to a foregone conclusion that Virtanen will not return this season. In the meantime, the legal process will have to play out.
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