On Saturday morning, it was announced that Virtanen had landed a new deal with HC Lokomotiv of the KHL.
Virtanen will be joining American forward Reid Boucher, who split time between Vancouver and Utica between 2017 and 2020, as well as fellow Canadian and netminder Pasquale Edward, as the third North American-born player on the roster.
This wasn’t the first KHL club to be recently linked with Virtanen, either.
Just five days earlier, Sport24 reported that the former sixth overall selection had been offered a contract from SKA St. Petersburg worth 60 million rubles, or approximately $823,000.
Many Canucks fans are quite familiar with SKA St. Petersburg, as the KHL club was home to prospect Vasili Podkolzin for the past three seasons. The former 2019 tenth overall selection, who signed his three-year entry-level deal at the beginning of August, is reportedly heading to Vancouver in the coming days, and is expected to land an opening roster spot out of training camp.
Term and finances of Virtanen’s new HC Lokomotiv deal were not disclosed, but it won’t be his only source of income.
The Abbotsford, B.C. native will receive $50,000 from the Canucks for the upcoming season after being placed on waivers for the purposes of a buyout at the end of July. Virtanen’s payout will increase to $500,000 for the 2022-23 campaign.
Prior to being bought out, Virtanen was set to enter the final season of his two-year, $5.1 million deal that he inked in October 2020. The deal was finalized right after Virtanen put up career-highs in goals (18) and assists (18). As we all know, Virtanen was still unable to live up to that contract value.
Despite numerous chances in the team’s top-six forward rotation, Virtanen continued to struggled on the ice during the pandemic-shortened season, only notching five goals in 38 contests. Over six seasons with his boyhood club, Virtanen only managed to put up 55 goals and 45 assists in 317 games.
His last game with the Canucks took place on April 29th against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he posted a minus one rating in just under 14 minutes of ice time. A few days later, Virtanen was placed on indefinite leave after sexual misconduct allegations against him were made public. The investigation is still ongoing.
The 2014 first rounder is hoping to bounce back in a big way while overseas, and could actually get a chance to do so very quickly. The 2021-22 KHL season kicked off last Wednesday, with HC Lokomotiv posting a 1-0-1 record over their first two games. Their next contest is scheduled for Tuesday against Dinamo Minsk, but Virtanen will likely have to wait a bit longer to make his debut, given the Visa process and travel time.
The team is also nearing the 10-year anniversary of their devastating plane crash, in which 44 players, coaches and training staff lost their lives. Among the victims was former Canuck forward Pavol Demitra, who suited up for 97 games in Vancouver. Demitra was only 36 years old.
Even though most fans are gearing up for the long-awaited return of the NHL and its 82-game schedule, don’t be surprised if a handful of Canuck faithful start to tune into HC Lokomotiv contests on the side.
What are your thoughts on Virtanen’s new contract? Make sure to drop a comment below!