Canucks’ Sven Baertschi opts out of NHL’s return to play

A Vancouver Canuck won’t be among those returning to the ice during the NHL playoffs
A Vancouver Canuck won't be among those returning to the ice during the NHL playoffs

When the Vancouver Canucks take the ice against the Minnesota Wild next month, they’ll do it without winger Sven Baertschi.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed Baertschi has opted out of the tournament the NHL has arranged to replace the end of the COVID-19 interrupted 2019-20 season.

Read more: NHL, players’ association announce Toronto and Edmonton as hub cities amid coronavirus

“Sven informed us late yesterday that he has chosen to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program,” said Benning.

“It was a difficult decision, but ultimately one we respect and understand.”

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Vancouver Canucks confirm NHL hub city bid over

Kole Lind will fill Baertschi’s place on the roster.

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Baertschi, who has been under contract with the Canucks since 2014, only played six games with the team this season — spending most of his time with the club’s AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets.

Read more: Canucks recall Baertschi from Utica

Baertschi had a career-high 18 goals and 17 assists in 2016-17 with Vancouver, then posted 14 goals and 15 assists in 53 games the following season.

But he was limited to 26 games in 2018-19 after missing time with post-concussion syndrome, and had just five goals and four assists.

Read more: NHL hubs in Edmonton, Toronto offer morale boost but no economic benefit: experts

The NHL reached a deal with the NHL Players’ Association on Friday to resume the season.

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Vancouver Canucks’ mascot Fin turns 19

The plan will see Edmonton and Toronto act as ‘hub cities’ hosting a tournament to determine playoff position in early August, and allows players to opt out with no penalty.

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The Calgary Flames’ Travis Hamonic has already indicated he won’t play.

The Canucks will begin training camp on Monday.

They’ll then travel to Edmonton, where they will face the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five series starting Aug. 2, as they attempt to win a slot in the post-season.

-With files from the Canadian Press