VANCOUVER – It’s not ongoing legal issues that have ended Jake Virtanen’s time with the Vancouver Canucks, it’s hockey issues.
Virtanen’s development stagnated to the point he played himself out of coach Travis Green’s lineup five times last season, and the 24-year-old from Abbotsford finished the pandemic campaign with just five goals and no assists – offensive numbers lower than what he posted as an overmatched National Hockey League teenager-rookie in 2015-16.
By the time general manager Jim Benning made the decision to place Virtanen on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout – a transaction announced Sunday morning without comment on the team’s Twitter account – the Canucks simply needed the winger’s cap space.
The buyout will be more painless than Virtanen’s erratic development in six years with his hometown team.
Since Virtanen is under 26, the NHL’s complicated buyout formula leaves the Canucks owing a salary-cap charge of just $50,000 next season and an additional $500,000 liability in 2022-23. This creates a whopping savings next year of $2.5 million, nearly the entire $2.55-million cap hit that keeping Virtanen would have incurred.
It was an easy decision for the Canucks to buy out Virtanen, but one they delayed for a week in the faint hope that teams that had previously expressed an interest in the former sixth-overall pick might still be willing to accept him in trade.
Virtanen’s serious legal problems made that impossible.
The player was placed…