The Canucks made the bizarre public announcement Sunday that they were shopping veteran Chris Higgins, but, just two days later, Vancouver has placed him on waivers.
Canucks president Trevor Linden told Sportsnet during Monday’s game that Higgins would be placed on waivers in part because there was a lack of trade interest in the 32-year-old. Tuesday afternoon, Higgins was officially waived by the Canucks and, per Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Higgins will report to the AHL’s Utica Comets if he is not claimed by Wednesday.
Higgins is in the midst of a four-year, $10-million deal with the Canucks, but has two seasons remaining on the contract. If he’s sent to the AHL, Vancouver will save $950,000 in cap space, but will be on the hook for the bulk of Higgins’ deal.
That Vancouver has chosen to waive and potentially demote Higgins shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the steep drop off in production he has had this season, but Canucks GM Jim Benning also said it was a decision made in part because the team wishes to open up spots on the roster for young talent currently playing in the AHL. As Benning put it in a release, demoting Higgins was “part of (the Canucks’) transition to a younger team."
In 25 games this season, Higgins has two goals and three points and has averaged just over 14 minutes per game in ice time. Early in his career, Higgins — who was a first-round, 14th overall pick of Montreal in 2002 — was a four-time 20-goal scorer, but he hasn’t been able to get back to the 20-goal plateau since the 2007-08 season. That was the same season Higgins has his best offensive production, as he notched 27 goals and 52 points with the Canadiens that campaign.
With his struggles this season, it seems unlikely any team would take a shot on Higgins and his $2.5-million cap hit via waivers, especially when the trade option was there with the chance to have the Canucks retain some salary to get him off the books. That may mean Higgins’ only option is to play out the season in Utica and hope for an off-season trade and another shot at the NHL.
Higgins was acquired by Vancouver at the trade deadline in 2011 and was re-signed to a two-year deal and handed a four-year extension in 2013. In 306 games with the Canucks, Higgins scored 61 goals and 141 points.