Canucks: There’s no reason to trade Jake Virtanen now

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

Jake Virtanen can fill the void left by Tyler Toffoli in the top-six, so the Vancouver Canucks have no reason to trade the 24-year-old now.

Even though he’s coming off his best season yet, Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen has been mentioned in the trade rumour mill.

In fact, Virtanen placed ninth on TSN’s Trade Bait list back on Oct. 1.

It’s well-known by now that head coach Travis Green and management haven’t been fully content with Virtanen’s progress. It’s already been more than six years since general manager Jim Benning took him with the sixth overall selection in 2014.

But Virtanen finally started to put it together in 2019-20, recording 18 goals and 36 points (all career bests) in 69 games. And that was while averaging just 13:05 time on ice per game, a drop from the 14:49 average time on ice in 2018-19.

He would have surely hit the 20-goal and 40-point marks if the NHL completed the 82-game regular season schedule, too.

And yet, Virtanen isn’t a complete lock to return to the Canucks next season. He has an arbitration hearing for Oct. 28, and it’s reasonable to believe he could land something in the $2.5 to $3 million range.

The cap-strapped Canucks might not be willing to pay that. And Benning could look to the free agent market for a possible replacement. Several capable top-six forwards remain unsigned, and there’s always the trade market if Benning has to go that route.

But Vancouver’s best bet at this point is to bring back Virtanen for at least one more season, regardless of what they have to pay him. If he can put up 18 goals and 36 points in a smaller role, imagine what Virtanen could do on a line with Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat.

Benning let Tyler Toffoli — a proven and quality top-six forward — leave in free agency (he signed with the Montreal Canadiens). In an ideal world, Vancouver would have created cap space to retain the 2014 Stanley Cup champion. But that’s irrelevant now.

Green needs somebody to fill the final spot in the top six, and unless Benning can clear the cap room to bring in a veteran player, the best bet is to give Virtanen that spot.

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Add it all up, and at this point, it doesn’t make any sense for the Canucks to trade Virtanen now.