Updated Potential Trade Landing Spots for Vancouver Canucks Forward Bo Horvat
At this point, it seems to be a matter of when, and not if, the Vancouver Canucks trade Bo Horvat.
The Canucks are outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, and the season to this point has been a massive disappointment. Horvat is also in the final year of his current contract and is a pending unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season.
There is certainly the possibility that he could re-sign and commit long-term to the Canucks, but contract talks have reportedly not gone well to this point. That could make Horvat one of the most attractive options as the March trade deadline approaches.
After scoring a career-high 31 goals (in only 70 games) during the 2021-22 season, Horvat has already scored 22 in 30 games entering Monday, putting him on a 60-goal pace over 82 games.
Maybe that number goes down a little if and when his shooting percentage (currently 22.7 percent) starts to regress, but he is still having a magnificent year and has developed into a bonafide top-line center. Any team in the league would be happy to add him for the stretch run and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Back in October, we did an initial look at teams that could be interested, so let's follow up on that and try to see who could make sense and who should be interested.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have two big problems this season.
The first is that they still could use a replacement for last year's No. 2 center, Nazem Kadri, following his departure to the Calgary Flames as an unrestricted free agent.
The second is that they have been absolutely decimated by injuries so far, with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin and several other players all missing significant time.
That combination has left the Avalanche as a middle-of-the-pack team in the Western Conference as they head into the holiday weekend.
It is not where they want to be or where they expect to be. Getting healthy will certainly fix a lot of their problems, but if they are going to compete for the Stanley Cup again, they could certainly use an upgrade down the middle behind MacKinnon.
Horvat would be a dream of a solution.
Colorado has depleted a lot of its draft capital this year and next year, owning just eight picks combined in the 2023 and 2024 drafts. Only two of those picks (each of their next two first-rounders) are in the top-three rounds of either class. That can certainly limit what they can do, as will the salary cap situation.
If there were a chance for Colorado to trade for then extend Horvat, somebody like Alex Newhook would be an intriguing centerpiece for a deal, but that might be a steep price to pay for a potential rental, given Newhook's upside.
Either way, Colorado should be in the market for a second-line center upgrade, and Horvat would be ideal.
Let's get bold here.
The Bruins have two outstanding centers right now in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but it is a position they do not have much long-term depth at.
There is no guarantee that either player will be back next season, which could leave a glaring hole down the middle for Boston.
Could this be an opportunity for the Bruins to do what they did at the deadline a year ago with defenseman Hampus Lindholm, where they acquire a "rental" player at a position of need at the trade deadline and then immediately work out a new long-term contract?
Horvat would not only give the Bruins some incredible scoring depth in the short term and greatly improve their chances for a Stanley Cup run this season, but that scenario could also satisfy a serious long-term need. Not many clubs would be able to matchup with Bergeron, Krejci and Horvat down the middle in this year's playoffs.
The Bruins also have a ton of money coming off the books after this season, with only 12 players currently under contract for the 2023-24 season.
The issue Boston would run into with that sort of deal, however, would be coming up with an offer that Vancouver wants. The Bruins' farm system is one of the thinnest in the NHL, and while Fabian Lysell and John Beecher are intriguing prospects, neither really projects to be a top-line player at this point.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils seem to have arrived, and when you have a strong young core and are better than you expected to be, quicker than you expected to be, you should try to strike while the iron is hot.
Horvat would be an intriguing option for the Devils because it would give them so many different options.
They could use him as a second-line center and bump Jack Hughes back over to wing, or they could keep Hughes at center and roll with Nico Hischier, Hughes and Horvat down the middle, which would be a nightmare matchup for any potential playoff team.
Plus, the Devils have a lot going for them as a potential partner for the Canucks.
New Jersey might be a preferred trading partner for Vancouver since it's in the Eastern Conference and has one of the best collections of young talent in the league to deal from. Furthermore, it also has money coming off the books this offseason and could offer Horvat a long-term extension.
Maybe they might want to solidify another position, but the Devils have a team that looks like it is good enough to contend right now, and adding a potential 35-or 40-goal center to the middle of that lineup would make them a nightmare to deal with.
If Jim Rutherford were still running the Penguins instead of the Canucks this is exactly the type of move I could see them going for. A blockbuster addition right before the deadline to make an all-in run at a Stanley Cup? That is what Pittsburgh did under his direction.
But Ron Hextall is a little more reserved in his team-building approach, so that obviously changes things.
The Penguins have turned their season around after a slow start and look like potential contenders again in the Eastern Conference. They still have their two superstars down the middle in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but there is a pretty big drop-off in talent at the position after those two players.
Teddy Blueger is fine in his fourth-line role, but Jeff Carter has not really done much to elevate the third line. Every Penguins team that has won the Stanley Cup in the Crosby-Malkin-Kris Letang era has had three dominant scoring lines with a difference-maker on that third line: Jordan Staal back in 2009, and the HBK line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel in 2016 and 2017. This team does not have that with Carter.
Horvat could once again give them that model.
The trade match here would be difficult. There are players on this Pittsburgh team that Rutherford clearly loves, particularly Kasperi Kapanen, whom Rutherford drafted in 2014 and then reacquired via trade in 2020. The Penguins do have their 2023 first-round pick to deal, but the prospect pool is very thin.
This would have to be a trade to bolster the current NHL roster (without an eye toward the future) to make it work from Vancouver's end, while Horvat would almost certainly only be a rental from the Penguins side.
Columbus Blue Jackets
OK, I know what you are thinking here.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are lousy, they are going nowhere this season, and they have no reason to try and add a pending free agent in a season like this.
Hear me out on this. Give me a chance. Please.
The Blue Jackets might stink, but it is also not a team that is in a full-blown rebuild. They have had a lot of brutal injury luck this season, goaltending has hurt them, and things have just not gone as planned.
But their offseason shows they are a team that wants to win now; otherwise, they would not have signed Johnny Gaudreau in free agency. They also have a general manager in Jarmo Kekäläinen that is not afraid to be bold and go against the grain.
He showed that a few years ago at the trade deadline when he held on to free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky despite not being in a playoff position at the time and then went all-out at the deadline by adding Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. Then this offseason, he stunned everybody by signing Gaudreau (and Erik Gudbranson).
Aside from goalie, Columbus' other big hole in the lineup is at center.
Cole Sillinger is the most intriguing young player at the position, but his development has taken a step back this season, and they do not really have another potential top-line option in the immediate future.
If Columbus can offer a package that Vancouver likes and convince Horvat to re-sign (hey, it got Gaudreau to sign), this would be a very intriguing option.