Jake Virtanen’s next opportunity in the NHL could come with one of the two franchises based in Alberta.
The 26-year-old forward, who was selected sixth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2014, hasn’t played in North America since the 2020-21 campaign. But he appears poised to return ahead of next season.
Bob Stauffer, Oilers TV and radio commentator and host of Oilers Now, reported on Tuesday that Virtanen has received interest from both the Calgary Flames and Oilers on a professional try-out deal (PTO). Stauffer also noted that the Washington Capitals were a potential suitor.
— Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer (@OilersNow) September 13, 2022
"It'll be something to watch for. I don't know if it's going to be Edmonton — it could be Calgary — but (Virtanen)'s representative is (agent) Kevin Epp, and I do believe there's a possibility it could be one of the two Alberta teams," Stauffer explained.
“It could be a Battle of Alberta situation.”
TSN Oilers reporter Ryan Rishaug on Monday tweeted that he's under the impression the Oilers have extended a PTO to Virtanen and are awaiting a response from his camp.
With the start of NHL training camps just around the corner, it’s probably safe to assume that Virtanen will be aiming to make a decision sooner rather than later. When that happens, however, it’s expected to spark plenty of controversy.
Virtanen, of course, was accused of sexual assault while he was still playing for the Canucks in May 2021. The club later placed him on indefinite leave and ultimately bought out his contract a month later.
A 12-person jury found the 6-foot-1 forward not guilty of sexual assault in the case this past July, clearing his path to return to the NHL. There is a civil lawsuit still pending against him, although no trial date has been set as of yet.
Due to his pending criminal case, Virtanen spent last season in the KHL, appearing in 36 contests with HC Spartak Moscow. He scored nine goals and 16 points during his inaugural campaign in Russia.
The Langley, B.C., native had logged six NHL seasons prior to being bought out, posting 55 goals and 100 points across 317 career games. His only playoff appearance occurred during the 2020 bubble, where he registered two goals and three points in 16 contests.
Whoever Virtanen signs with, it could end up being his last opportunity to prove he’s a capable NHL regular.
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