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Canucks draft 6, buy out Jake Virtanen as qualifying offer season begins

July 26, 2021, 1:23 PM ET [1344 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The 2021 Draft is in the books, but the news cycle is still hot and heavy around the Vancouver Canucks and the rest of the hockey world.

Monday is the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to their restricted free agents. And as we've seen over the past couple of years, that's now an area where clubs have been deciding they'd sometimes lose an asset for the sake of freeing up cap space, especially when a player has arbitration rights.

Per CapFriendly, here's the Canucks' list of 2021 RFAs:

• Jason Dickinson (arbitration eligible)
• Jayce Hawryluk (arbitration eligible)
• Conor Garland (arbitration eligible)
• Elias Petterson (no arbitration rights)
• Marc Michaelis (arbitration eligible)
• Lukas Jasek (arbitration eligible)
• Petrus Palmu (arbitration eligible)

• Olli Juolevi (no arbitration rights)
• Quinn Hughes (10.2(c) - no arbitration rights)
• Guillaume Brisebois (arbitration eligible)
• Mitch Eliot (10.2(c) - no arbitration rights)

• Jake Kielly (arbitration eligible)

The first buyout window of the offseason is also now just about closed. There have only been two buyouts since the expansion draft. Both were expected, and issued to players under age 26, whose buyouts are just 1/3 of their remaining contracts instead of the usual 2/3 for older players.

The New York Rangers took defenseman Tony DeAngelo off their books on Friday, and the Canucks followed suit with Jake Virtanen on Sunday — quietly sneaking in the announcement when everyone was exhausted after the draft.

Jake had one year remaining on a two-year deal that carried a cap hit of $2.55 million and real salary of $3.4 million, including a signing bonus of $400,000.

He'll now receive another $1 million, split evenly over the next two years. His cap hit remains on the books for just $50,000 for the Canucks in 2021-22, then $500,000 in 2022-23.

It's a disappointing end for Benning's first-ever pick with the Canucks, selected sixth overall in 2014.

Jake is now an unrestricted free agent, who leaves with exactly 100 NHL points in 317 career games — 55 goals and 45 assists. After trending well over the previous three seasons, his production fell off a cliff in 2020-21, when he scored just five goals and no assists in 38 games. He was placed on leave on May 1 when allegations of sexual misconduct came to light. A civil lawsuit is still before the courts.

Hockey-wise, Virtanen is now an unrestricted free agent, who could sign with any team that will have him. He turns 25 in August.

Next — the draft.

After the Canucks gave up their first-round pick as part of the deal that brought in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from Arizona, there were no further trades on Day 2. The Canucks finished the day with six new prospects:

Round 2 - No. 41 - forward Danila Klimovich

The big winger is listed at 6'2" and 202 pounds, and turned 18 in January. He impressed with his aggression and his nose for the net on Team Belarus at the World U18 Championship, but is seen as a very raw prospect with lots of potential upside.

Elite Prospects offers a nice feature on players' profile pages, showing where they ranked on various draft lists.

In Klimovich's case, he was generally ranked in the 50s and 60s, with Elite Prospects themselves putting him highest, at No. 53. So he was a bit of a reach for the Canucks, but that's the kind of thing that happens when a team doesn't select again for nearly 100 picks.

He'll be an intriguing prospect, for sure, and it'll be fun to watch his progress. He's already delivering highlights!

While there was talk that he'd be heading for the QMJHL this season, he's now on a tryout contract with the KHL's Dinamo Minsk, in his home country of Belarus.

As for the later picks from Day 2:

Round 5, No. 137 - goaltender Aku Koskenvuo

This Finnish netminder has good size at 6'4" and was Finland's starter at U18s, but managed just a 4.23 GAA and .874 save percentage as he put up a 3-3-0 record in six starts. He was the fourth-ranked European goalie in the draft according to NHL Central Scouting, and was only ranked by a couple of other outlets, so that isn't much to go on.

As a fifth-rounder, he's certainly not a sure thing. But hey — Pekka Rinne was drafted in Round 8 back in 2004, so you never know.

Elite Prospects doesn't have an affiliation for Koskenvuo for next season, but apparently he's committed to Harvard for 2022-23. He turned 18 in February.

Round 5, No. 140 - defenseman Jonathan Myrenberg

More good size, at 6'2" and 185 pounds, Myrenberg is a right-shot defenseman out of Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League. He also has limited rankings, and sat No. 97 on NHL Central Scouting's list of European skaters.

Myrenberg just turned 18 in April and is expected to return to Linkoping's junior team next season.

Round 6, No. 169 - defenseman Hugo Gabrielson

A left shot this time, Gabrielson is a bit older than Myrenberg — he turned 18 last October. And listed at 6'1" and 172 pounds, he's basically Petey-sized.

Gabrielson was not ranked by NHL Central Scouting, and is ranked everywhere from 81 to 224 by the outlets cited by Elite Prospects. He has come up through the Frolunda program in Sweden but is assigned to Vasterviks in the Allsvenskan second-division next season.

Round 7, No. 178 - forward Connor Lockhart

Lockhart is the Canucks' first pick from Major Junior since they selected Carson Focht out of the WHL in 2019. He's the first from the OHL since 2017, when they selected Jonah Gadjovich, Mikey DiPietro, Petrus Palmu and Matt Brassard.

Lockhart is small, listed at 5'9" and 165 pounds. He turned 18 in January and didn't play last season, after putting up nine goals and 28 points in 57 games in his first season with the Erie Otters in the 2019-20 season.

He's an Ottawa kid, who dominated offensively in minor hockey. And he may have slipped in the draft because of his lack of playing time last season. He was ranked at No. 104 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting but was in the top 100 of the four independent outlets cited on Elite Prospects.

Round 7, No. 201 - forward Lucas Forsell

One of the youngest players in the draft, Forsell doesn't turn 18 until Sept. 5 — 10 days before the cutoff for the 2022 group. He's also from Sweden, and is listed at 6'0" and 161 pounds.

He's a righty, listed as a left winger, and despite his youth he got one game last season with the SHL men's team in the Farjestad organization. He's expected to play for their U20 squad next year.
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