Chris Higgins

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Canucks waive Higgins for buyout purposes

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Looks like yesterday’s report proved accurate — per Sportsnet, the Canucks have waived veteran forward Chris Higgins for the purpose of buying out his contract.

Higgins, 33, has one year left on his four-year, $10 million deal with a $2.5M average annual cap hit. The 13-year vet has already been waived once by the Canucks — he cleared back 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.

Higgins’ buyout will result in an $833,333 cap hit for the Canucks this season and the next. For Higgins, it will mean an opportunity to try and catch on with another club, and there’s a halfway decent chance he could score an inexpensive contract with a team looking for a veteran presence.

Despite a tough ’15-16, Higgins was a good contributor for Vancouver the two seasons prior. He had 17 goals and 39 points in ’13-14, and 12 goals and 36 points in ’14-15.

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.

Canucks sign Sven Baertschi to two-year, $3.7M contract

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With expectations lowered, Sven Baertschi has been a relative bright spot at times for the Vancouver Canucks.

Vancouver rewarded the former Calgary Flames prospect on Thursday, keeping him from RFA status by locking him down to a two-year, $3.7 million contract.

The team breaks his deal down as such:

The contract will carry a value of $1,700,000 in the first year and a value of $2,000,000 in the second year for an annual average value of $1,850,000.

Keeping Baertschi around is a simple enough decision, yet the bigger questions revolve around Vancouver’s next steps.

Do they continue to try to scrap for a playoff spot or maybe except a step closer to the basement to regroup?

The team isn’t sure whether it will buy out Alex Burrows or Chris Higgins. There are rumored free agent flirtations with the likes of Milan Lucic and Troy Brouwer. Their Erik Gudbranson trade smelled of a “win now” feeling. There are even mutterings that the team would have made the playoffs if it weren’t for an injury.

So … a lot of the signs point to the Canucks focusing on the present more than the future, but the good news is that Baertschi can fit into either gameplan (even if only in a minor role).

Canucks undecided on buying out Burrows and/or Higgins

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The Vancouver Canucks have not yet decided if they’ll buy out veteran forwards Alex Burrows and/or Chris Higgins.

GM Jim Benning told Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy that what happens in free agency could be a factor. Benning is expected to try and add a top UFA winger like Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, or Kyle Okposo.

And that’s where it could get a bit tricky. The Canucks can start interviewing free agents on June 25, but they can’t officially sign them until July 1, after the buyout window ends June 30. So those could be an interesting few days for Benning. He’ll have to gain a good idea of his chances of landing one of his targets.

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.

Besides buyouts, other options include trading one or both of them (if possible, which it might not be), or keeping one or both of them.

Burrows had just nine goals in 79 games last season, though he did finish fourth on the team with 135 shots.

Higgins had just three goals in 33 NHL games. He spent part of the season with AHL Utica.

Related: Higgins clears waivers, assigned to AHL

Buyout window opens Wednesday, here are some candidates

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Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, it’s time to move on to an equally enjoyable topic — players that will be paid to go away this summer!

The NHL’s buyout window opens on Wednesday, 48 hours after the final game of the season. A quick refresher on the math (per General Fanager):

Buyouts are paid over twice the number of years remaining on the player’s contract.

The rate is one-third of the total salary remaining for players under the age of 26, and two-thirds for those 26 and older.

There are a bunch of other smaller rules and regulations so, if you’d like to read about those, head over to the General Fanager page. It’s a good site.

Now, for the potential buyout candidates?

— Rumblings have Minnesota considering a Thomas Vanek buyout. Vanek, 32, is heading into the last of a three-year, $19.5 million deal with a $6.5M cap hit, and is owed $7.5 million in salary. He’s coming off a disappointing year in which he scored a career-low 18 goals.

— Nashville GM David Poile said buying out veteran forward Eric Nystrom could happen, if he’s unable to trade Nystrom prior to the window. Nystrom, 33, carries a $2.5 million cap hit but is set to pull in $3M in salary next season.

R.J. Umberger said he expects the Flyers to buy him out. Umberger, 33, is heading into the last year of a contract that pays $4.6 million annually.

Toronto is expected to do the same with d-man Jared Cowen, who was acquired in the Dion Phaneuf trade but never played for the Leafs.

Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, both facing uncertain futures in Vancouver, are also candidates to be bought out.

Chicago could finally decide to part ways with Bryan Bickell, whose four-year, $16 million contract has been an albatross the last couple of seasons.

— Former Oilers captain Andrew Ference, who only played in six games last year before getting shut down, could be in line for a buyout. This one may be more complicated, though, depending on Ference’s health. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in January, and it’s unclear if he’s fully recovered.