Now 26, Virtanen hasn’t played in the NHL since being put on leave by the Vancouver Canucks in 2021 after allegations of sexual assault were raised. He was eventually bought out by the team in the offseason and spent 2021-22 in the KHL, scoring nine goals and 16 points in 36 games.
After being found not guilty earlier this summer, Virtanen is attempting an NHL comeback, but he’ll have to do it somewhere other than Edmonton now that his PTO has been terminated. The sixth-overall pick from 2014 is a free agent again and it is unclear what kind of other opportunities await him in North America.
While a year away from the league certainly didn’t help things, Virtanen was already struggling to keep a spot in an NHL lineup. In 2020-21 he had just five goals in 38 games (zero assists) and has never been a consistent offensive threat.
His size and skating ability suggest he could be an effective player, but there have been too many games where his presence has been absent. To change that perception and keep his career afloat, he may have to work his way back up from the minor leagues, especially given how close it is to the regular season without a contract in hand.