July 26: Virtanen has cleared waivers and will be bought out.
July 25: The Vancouver Canucks have placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout. Because he is still just 24, the Canucks will be on the hook for just one-third of Virtanen’s remaining salary. That means the team will face a buyout penalty of $50K in 2021-22 and $500K in 2022-23. Tomorrow, when the buyout is executed, Virtanen will be an unrestricted free agent.
After scoring 18 goals in 69 games for the Canucks during the 2019-20 season, Virtanen completely fell off a cliff this year. He registered just five goals and zero assists in 38 games, essentially playing himself completely out of Vancouver’s plans. It wasn’t the first time he’d disappointed management, as Canucks GM Jim Benning was open about how he “expected more” from the young power forward in last year’s playoff bubble.
Importantly, Virtanen’s on-ice play warranted this buyout, but the Canucks are also washing their hands of a player embroiled in off-ice scandal. Earlier this summer, a civil lawsuit was filed in Kelowna, British Columbia, alleging Virtanen sexually assaulted a woman in 2017. On May 1, the Canucks placed Virtanen on leave from the team, releasing this statement:
We have become aware of the concerning allegations made about Jake Virtanen. Our organization does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously by us.
We have engaged external expertise to assist in an independent investigation and we have placed the player on leave as we await more information.
The results of that investigation have not been released. Virtanen has since responded to the civil court filing, denying the allegations.
After 317 games in the NHL, the sixth-overall pick from 2014 has scored 55 goals and 100 points. There have been flashes of brilliance, using his size and speed to create scoring opportunities seemingly at a whim. There have also been long stretches of inconsistency, during which Virtanen provides very little value to the team at either end of the rink. With the Canucks recently bringing in a cap hit like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a top-six forward like Conor Garland, there was simply no room for Virtanen or his $2.55MM cap hit in Vancouver.