You have to wonder if this is the end of the road for former first round draft pick Jake Virtanen.
On Sunday the Vancouver Canucks officially announced that Virtanen has been placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out the final year of his current contract. Virtanen signed a 2 year deal with the Canucks in October of 2020, one that saw him earn an average annual value of $2.55 million per season. That deal however was backloaded, with Virtanen earning $1.7 million in the first year of the deal, which means that Virtanen would have been set to double his salary this upcoming season with earnings of $3.4 million including his signing bonus.
This will represent a significant savings for the Canucks when it comes to this season's salary cap, with Virtanen's cap hit dropping all the way down to just $50,000 for the first year of the buyout penalty. It's true that the Canucks will have to take on an additional penalty for Virtanen's cap hit next season as well, but even then it will only come in at $500,000 against the cap making this effectively a $2 million savings against the cap for the Canucks in total.
The buyout comes as no surprise given the off-ice troubles that Virtanen has been dealing with in recent months. The Canucks forward was recently the target of very serious allegations of sexual abuse and has become the subject of civil litigation as it pertains to that matter. Virtanen has denied the allegations according to a response to that litigation that was filed in the player's defense. This has left a dark cloud hanging over the head of Virtanen, although he remains innocent until proven guilty, especially in light of some of the other scandals around the league at this time.
The reality is that Virtanen had largely failed to live up to the expectations the Canucks had for him when they selected him 6th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, especially when you consider the context that he was selected ahead of players like Kevin Fiala, William Nylander and David Pastrnak, and it feels like these off-ice troubles have served as the final nail in his coffin when it comes to his tenure with the Canucks. It remains to be seen if he will get another shot elsewhere in the National Hockey League, but I suspect that will largely depend on how his current legal troubles play out.