Report: Canucks plan to buy out Higgins, keep Burrows (Updated)

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Like every other team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks go from the draft to a pivotal week in their off-season, with free agency set to open on Friday.

General manager Jim Benning has already declared his intentions to at least call representatives for pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos, as well as his interest in forward and pending UFA Milan Lucic.

(For the former move, as well as revealing that he spoke with the Montreal Canadiens about P.K. Subban, Benning now finds himself in hot water, facing discipline for tampering.)

While it looks like the Canucks will try to make a splash in free agency, the organization also has important decisions to make when it comes to veteran forwards Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.

For months, there has been talk the Canucks could potentially buy out both players. The window to do so closes Thursday.

From ProHockeyTalk earlier this month:

Burrows, 35, and Higgins, 33, each have a year left on their contracts, with cap hits of $4.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Buying out the former would mean a $2.5 million cap hit next season, and a $1 million hit in 2017-18. Buying out the latter would mean an $833,333 hit in each of the next two seasons.

Matthew Sekeres of TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver provided this report Sunday morning:

The Canucks have not made an official announcement.

Updated: Speaking to CKNW in Vancouver on Sunday, president Trevor Linden said “there’s been no determination” about the futures of Burrows and Higgins with the team. (Click here to listen.)

Higgins, 33, was cleared waivers in January and was assigned to the AHL’s Utica Comets. He was later recalled in March, finishing the NHL season with three goals and four points in 33 games.

In Vancouver, the rags-to-riches rise to prominence on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, not to mention scoring one of the biggest goals in franchise history — in overtime, Game 7, against Chicago in the first round of the 2011 playoffs — has made Burrows a popular figure with Canucks fans.

But as mentioned, he’s 35 and coming off a season in which his production declined.

Following Vancouver’s final regular season game, Burrows admitted he needed to be better in order to remain with the Canucks, adding days later that his summer workouts for the 2015-16 season started late because of a rib injury.

Even if the Canucks land a notable free agent, they still have a host of young players — Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce and third-year center Bo Horvat up front. At the end of the season, Burrows believed he could help provide leadership as the organization looks to transition to a new core.