Restricted free agent Jake Virtanen has filed for salary arbitration, as first reported by Irfaan Gaffar.
Jake Virtanen has filed for salary arbitration. #Canucks
— Irfaan Gaffar (@irfgaffar) October 9, 2020
Unless Virtanen and the Vancouver Canucks come to an agreement before his arbitration date, the Abbotsford native’s next contract will be decided by a third party.
Virtanen’s arbitration case will be an interesting one, to say the least. A first-round draft pick in 2014, the 24-year-old’s development has been a bumpy ride.
“Jake Virtanen is a player that we’ve drafted, we’ve developed, we’ve spent a lot of time with,” GM Jim Benning told reporters today. “We think he’s going to be a consistent 20-goal scorer for us moving forward. There’s been some growing pains along the way, as there is with lots of good young players. We’re going to try to figure out a contract for Jake and bring him back next year.”
Although Virtanen took a big step forward last season, scoring career highs in goals (18), assists (18), and points (36), he failed to gain the confidence of head coach Travis Green, and began the postseason as a healthy scratch.
Virtanen missed just one playoff game because of injuries to other players, but he only managed three points in 16 postseason games. Asked about his playoff performance, Benning admitted he “expected more” from Virtanen.
Still, Virtanen’s stat line will put him in line for a raise, with a cap hit around $3 million seeming likely. His cap hit last season was $1.25 million.
Given his size, speed, and shot, Virtanen has all the tools to become a legitimate top six forward, and with Tyler Toffoli likely leaving in free agency, he should get that chance next season. The question for Virtanen is his consistency and commitment to defence.