The Vancouver Canucks have announced their intention to buy out Jake Virtanen today as the team put him on unconditional waivers.
Jake Virtanen is on unconditional waivers
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 25, 2021
The 24-year old Virtanen has had a conflicted history with the team and their fans from the instant he was drafted, his performance never living up to his sixth-overall draft position. With Virtanen bought out, the team opens another space on the wing and frees up a bit of cap space. The addition of a police investigation into sexual misconduct charges earlier this year made their decision that much easier. We’re obviously not going to speculate on the charge itself which Virtanen has denied. That’s well beyond the scope of this article, but ignoring it has an effect would be hopelessly naive. We will, for now, leave it there and focus on his history with the team.
Jake Virtanen Bought Out. Finally!
Jake Virtanen is known as general manager Jim Benning‘s first draft pick with the Canucks – for better or worse. As Benning has come under ever-louder criticism during his seven-year tenure, every decision he has made is replayed in public forums (*ahem*). The 2014 pick was somewhat controversial even at the time, but not as much as people assume now. In Virtanen, the Canucks drafted a big, fast – and local – winger who had scored plenty that year. The team wanted to get bigger, faster, and have some scoring in their prospects, and Virtanen checked all the boxes. They turned down some higher-skill choices, but the selection was understandable.
Despite his early-career hiccough, over the previous three years, his progress has been slow but steady. His scoring numbers have improved along with his attention to defence – long a sore point with coaches and fans. The biggest criticism of Virtanen is his “hockey sense” or “hockey IQ” limiting his physical abilities. Those seemed to be coming along, enough so that he seems to have been chosen over the re-signing of Tyler Toffoli last off-season. That decision hasn’t aged particularly well. Especially as Virtanen’s play collapsed last season with just five goals in 38 games and demotion to the fourth line. Again.
Now What Happens
Having Jake Virtanen bought out did not change the Canucks’ protection list heading into the Seattle Expansion Draft. The team obviously would rather have dealt him for some kind of return, but that did not happen. Seattle might have selected him without the off-ice issues, but with them? No chance.
As far as cap space goes, Virtanen’s contract was really the only one that made sense to buy out. The numbers weren’t burdensome, exactly – one more season at $2.55 million. But in buying him out now that number plunges to $50,000 this year and $500,000 next. With two VERY large deals to come in Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, every one of those dollars counts. And will likely be put to much better use.
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