Trade rumours have surrounded Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen seemingly since the moment he entered the NHL. This offseason, with an impending cap crunch and with key contracts coming up in the future for the Canucks, those rumours have been more pervasive than ever. Will the Canuck re-sign Virtanen or will they trade his rights to another team? When will this team cut bait with the underachieving former 6th overall pick?
Well... the answer, evidently, is "not just yet."
The Canucks announced earlier today that they've re-signed Virtanen to a two year contract worth $2.55 million per season.
Check it out:
The 24 year old Virtanen broke out in a big way this past season, putting up a career best 18 goals and 36 points in just 69 games. He earned himself the nickname "Shotgun Jake" from Canucks fans online who posted videos of themselves shotgunning a beer whenever Virtanen scored a goal. This routine got its start with Vancouver's TSN1040 radio hosts Mike Halford and Jason Brough who pledged to shotgun a beer for every Virtanen goal on Virtanen's quest to become a 20 goal scorer. Jake, of course, ran out of real estate at just 18 goals when the NHL's stoppage was announced due to COVID-19, but there's reason to believe that the power forward can and will hit the mark in 2020-21.
Look... Virtanen is never going to live up to his draft position. We was selected 6th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft ahead of legitimate star players like Dylan Larkin, David Pastrnak, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers. He's not likely to hit the heights of any of those players. But that doesn't mean he can't be an effective player for the Canucks for years to come. The fact of the matter is that Virtanen's combination of skill, size and speed is a rare find in today's NHL. He's 6 foot, 1 inch, 225 pounds and he can skate as good as almost anyone in the NHL. I mean... just watch him out hustle Connor McDavid on this play from two seasons ago:
Just a reminder... that's Connor FREAKING McDavid that Virtanen just blew past.
So, while Virtanen isn't likely to become the Canucks next big star, there are still reasons to be patient with him and hope that he can fulfill some of his potential over the next two seasons.