The Vancouver Canucks’ first draft pick under the Jim Benning regime is officially out of the NHL.
“We count on Virtanen as a two-way player, a very useful and dangerous power forward,” said Roman Belyaev, the sports director of HC Spartak Moscow. “Jake is a fast and powerful forward with good hands, speed and shooting. He can play both on the left and right flanks, he's dangerous in front of the goal, and he can be a power forward in the KHL.”
Despite his speed and size, Virtanen was never quite able to become a power forward in the NHL. His inability or unwillingness to drive the net became a point of consternation among Canucks fans over the past several years. While he managed double-digit goal totals in three seasons, his 2020-21 season was a disappointment, tallying just five goals and no assists in 38 games.
Virtanen’s declining production came immediately after signing a two-year contract worth $2.55 million per year. His on-ice struggles and the Canucks’ cap situation made it a strong possibility that the team would buy out his contract in the offseason.
In addition, Virtanen faced an off-ice allegation.
Virtanen was placed on leave by the Canucks in April after an allegation of sexual misconduct came out online. A woman then filed a civil lawsuit against Virtanen in May, as well as a report to the Vancouver Police Department. Her name is being protected in the civil suit.
The suit alleges “the actions of Virtanen were reckless, arrogant, high-handed, abusive and show a callous disregard for the wishes of the plaintiff.”
Virtanen responded to the civil suit in June alleging the two engaged in consensual sexual intercourse.
None of these allegations have been tested or proven in court and Virtanen has previously denied Glacier Media’s attempts for comment, which is his right.
Virtanen has had limited interest from NHL teams. A report early in free agency that the Carolina Hurricanes were interested in signing Virtanen was denied by a source within the Hurricanes organization.
NHL training camps will begin later in September — the Canucks’ camp kicks off on September 23 — so the pressure is on for free agents to get a contract.