Former Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen released this statement late in the day Tuesday after being acquitted in his sexual assault trial. We tagged it on a previous ‘updated’ story in the evening, but it’s worth sharing again since it answers the question as to if and when the right wing will try to continue his NHL career.
“I am incredibly relieved that the jury has found me not guilty, after considering all of the evidence in my trial. I am glad the truth has come to light. I am looking forward to resuming my career as an NHL player. For my whole life I have dreamed about playing the sport I love, in the best league in the world. I want to thank my family, my friends, and my supporters, the people who stood behind me through these most difficult times.”
No question about the ‘if’, that’s for sure, he wasted little time in bringing up resuming his hockey efforts. ‘When’ is a bit hazy. He has plenty of time to prepare for this next season, but he hasn’t played in an NHL game since April 29th, 2021 at the Toronto Maple Leafs. That came at the end of the all-Canadian North Division Covid-bubble season. Obvious distractions held him to a five-goal, zero-assist effort in 38 games. He actually had 18 goals and 18 assists in 68 games in 2019-’20.
‘Where’ actually becomes the biggest question. As in, who might want him. From a legal standpoint, there should be nothing holding anyone back. Virtanen was proven innocent for all intents and purposes. At this point, given the history, I wouldn’t expect the Vancouver Canucks to ever consider bringing him around, although they’d send a strong message about due process if they did.
Naturally, he’d have to present on-ice value, and he hadn’t exactly lived up to expectations the first time around. He was the Vancouver Canucks 1st-round pick, 6th-overall draft choice in 2014.
The 25-year-old Langley native needs a new scene. If he’s not able to pick up some form of contract as a free agent, you might see Virtanen in a Professional Try-out (PTO) situation. I reckon his North Vancouver-based player agent Kevin Epp is working on it as we speak.
Virtanen has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 NHL games, all with the Vancouver Canucks.