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Virtanen Would Be Distraction with Flames



There was a time Jake Virtanen would have been an exciting presence at a Calgary Flames camp.

That time has probably passed.

I’m typically a big believer in second chances. And, surely, if the Flames really have been considering the addition of the former Calgary Hitmen power forward, they’ve been doing all kinds of research into what Virtanen has become as a person as well as a player.

But the Flames have undergone a transfusion of sorts. Two thirds of their top line – both important pieces of the team’s core – departed this summer.

Matthew Tkachuk can now be seen tossing (bad) first pitches in Florida. Johnny Gaudreau is just another member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Additions Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar are the new blood filtering through the franchise.

Adding Virtanen might be like mixing in another blood type. A PTO for a player with some baggage might be a distraction. The not guilty verdict in his sexual assault case and the impending civil suit aren’t topics a team wants to deal with at a time they’re laying the foundation for a season with sights on the Stanley Cup.

It’s not worth it.

Not for a depth piece whose NHL comeback story is best left to the Flames’ neighbours to the north.

The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly waiting for Virtanen’s signature on a PTO. But there’s talk this morning is that it’s Alberta either way.

Others may be in the mix after the he-said, she-said court battle in front of a jury gave Virtanen hope of continuing his NHL career.

Even if you believe the player is deserving of another look, it doesn’t mean you should be the team to give it to him.

Forget the off-ice headache and ill-timed training camp distraction. Just look at the evidence on the ice the past seven years.

Inconsistent at the best of times, and a liability in the worst, Virtanen scored 55 times in 317 NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015 to 2021. His underlying numbers do not paint the picture of a player with much more potential.

He scored just five times in 38 games before the Canucks bought out his contract amid the controversy following the alleged assault in Calgary. In the KHL last season, he tallied nine goals and 16 points in 36 games with the Moscow Spartak.

Yet it continues to be a challenge for NHL teams to see past size, physical presence, shot side and draft pedigree.

The sixth-overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft is just 26, stands 6-foot-1 and scales in around 230 pounds. He’s a right-handed right-winger who isn’t afraid to throw that weight around.

It’s entirely possible an investment in him will pay off for someone.

For the Calgary Flames, though, the radical change this summer has been enough.

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