5 Potential Trades and Landing Spots for Vancouver Canucks Captain Bo Horvat
The Vancouver Canucks' struggles this season led to stars such as J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser popping up in media trade speculation. Team captain Bo Horvat also recently surfaced in the rumor mill. During a Nov. 25 appearance on Sportsnet 650, The Athletic's Rick Dhaliwal indicated (at the 23:50 point of the interview) that the bulk of the trade calls received by the Canucks involved Horvat.
It's understandable why Horvat is drawing attention. The 26-year-old is a superb two-way center who's strong on faceoffs, can play a gritty game and reached or exceeded 40 points five times in his eight NHL seasons.
Horvat would be a solid addition to any club. However, his style of play would likely draw more interest among playoff contenders looking to boost their depth at center with reasonably affordable talent. Horvat is signed through 2022-23 with a $5.5 million annual salary-cap hit with no trade protection.
It's unlikely the Canucks have immediate plans to shake up their roster after firing general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green on Sunday. Director of Player Development Stan Smyl has taken over for Benning on an interim basis, and any significant player movement probably won't happen until the new GM has time to evaluate the roster.
The Canucks sit $3.6 million above this season's $81.5 million salary cap. They're allowed to do so because forwards Micheal Ferland and Brandon Sutter are on long-term injury reserve and are expected to be sidelined for the entire season. If they were to shop Horvat, he could net a first-round pick and a quality prospect.
Should the Canucks new general manager decide to peddle Horvat, here's a look at five possible destinations and what the asking price could be. Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section below.
The Boston Bruins have regularly finished among the top clubs in the Eastern Conference in recent years. However, they're currently jockeying for a wild-card berth. A bold move for a reliable second-line center such as Horvat could help them rise up the standings.
David Krejci's return to the Czech Republic during the offseason left the Bruins without a suitable second-line pivot. They're using Charlie Coyle as Krejci's replacement, but he's better suited for third-line duty.
Filling the second-line center position for the Canucks, Horvat would fit easily into that spot with the Bruins. While not a slick playmaker like Krejci, he would be an upgrade over Coyle offensively and in the faceoff circle. He could mesh well between second-line winger Taylor Hall and Craig Smith.
With just $2.3 million in salary-cap space, the Bruins would have to send a player to the Canucks to take on Horvat's $5.5 million cap hit for this season. That's where Jake DeBrusk and his $3.675 million cap hit come in. The 25-year-old winger has requested a trade, and management intends to accommodate him. Changing clubs could help him regain his scoring touch after seeing his points totals decline every year after a 43-point debut season in 2017-18.
On Dec. 1, The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma reported speculation linking DeBrusk to the Canucks. The Bruins, however, would have to add another player in the deal to make the dollars work for both clubs. They could package DeBrusk with versatile forward Erik Haula ($2.75 million), who's struggling with the Bruins and could use a change of scenery.
After winning the Presidents' Trophy last season with the NHL's best record, the Colorado Avalanche were eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That disappointing finish generated speculation general manager Joe Sakic could make a major move. On Nov. 5, The Denver Post's Mark Chambers reported the Avs were linked to Jack Eichel before his trade to the Vegas Golden Knights.
With the Avs off to a slow start this season and facing pressure to break through as a Stanley Cup contender, Sakic's rumored interest in Eichel suggests he's in the market for a center. Horvat could be a player on his radar.
The Avalanche already have Nazem Kadri as their second-line center, and he's off to a terrific start with a team-leading 30 points. However, the 31-year-old is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July and will seek a substantial raise over his current $4.5 million annual average value. Kadri's habit of drawing postseason suspensions could provide additional motivation for Sakic to sell while his value is high.
Kadri could use his 10-team no-trade clause to prevent a move to Vancouver, but the Canucks wouldn't be interested in swapping Horvat for a player who could depart as a free agent next summer. Sakic could try shipping ship Kadri to another club and use the savings and return to acquire Horvat, whose more responsible two-way style could make him better suited for the playoffs than the mercurial Kadri.
Failing that, Sakic could offer up defenseman Samuel Girard in a one-for-one swap with the Canucks. He's 23, lacks trade protection this season, carries a comparable cap hit ($5 million) and is under contract through 2026-27.
Detroit Red Wings
Having spent the past five seasons rebuilding with youth, the Detroit Red Wings are starting to be rewarded for their efforts. They're holding a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference and chasing the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division.
While the Wings are trending in the right direction, it's still early in the season. A lack of experienced skilled depth at center could scuttle their hopes of securing their first playoff berth since 2015-16. They're fine on the first line with captain Dylan Larkin, but second-line center Pius Suter is in just his second NHL season and isn't as strong in the faceoff circle as Larkin or third-line center Michael Rasmussen.
Horvat would be a terrific addition to the Wings. He would slot into the second-line center role where his faceoff skills and solid defensive game would provide a welcome boost. His experience and leadership would also help take some of the burden off Larkin. Suter could be shifted to left wing and Filip Zadina could be moved to the right side.
Cap space wouldn't be an issue for the Red Wings. They've got $11.1 million of projected cap space and a projected $41.4 million next season. That's more than enough to take on Horvat's $5.5 million annual cap hit. The potential downside is Horvat could walk via free agency in 2023. However, it could be easier to sell him on the Wings' future if he helps them reach the playoffs.
If the Canucks don't want much salary back, the Wings have plenty of tempting assets to use as trade bait. They obviously won't part with star rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. The Canucks could be tempted by prospect defenseman Simon Edvinsson and either a first-round pick or one of the Wings two second-rounder in 2022.
On Nov. 23, The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma reported the Minnesota Wild had their trade sights set on Canucks forward J.T. Miller. If he's unavailable, they could be among the clubs with an interest in Horvat.
The Wild currently sit atop the Central Division and are among the best clubs in the Western Conference. They're using Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek as their top two centers. Horvat, however, could provide an additional measure of experienced depth, all-around skills and leadership at that position.
Given Horvat's experience with the Canucks, he could play either as first- or second-line center with the Wild. That would enable them to shift the versatile Hartman to the wing on their scoring lines.
Kuzma speculated the Wild would have to offer up winger Kevin Fiala and his one-year, $5.1 million contract plus a second-rounder for Miller. Perhaps a similar offer could be used for Horvat instead. If the Canucks' next general manager decides to rebuild, he could prefer a package of a first- or second-round pick and prospect center Marco Rossi.
New York Rangers
After spending the last four seasons rebuilding their roster, the New York Rangers are off to a strong start to this season. They're jockeying with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Losing winger Sammy Blais to a season-ending knee injury has reportedly sent general manager Chris Drury into the trade market. On Nov. 18, TSN's Darren Dreger indicated the Rangers were in the market for a middle-six forward, someone who can skate on their second or third lines.
Horvat would become the Rangers' best faceoff man. He could center their second line, enabling them to either shift Ryan Strome to their third line or over to right wing on the second line. He could also fill the third-line center position. With that extra year on his contract, he could become Strome's replacement for next season if the Rangers aren't able to re-sign him before his unrestricted free agency in July.
The Rangers have $5.5 million in projected cap space for this season. They'll have to send some salary to the Canucks to comfortably absorb Horvat's $5.5 million cap hit. That extra season on his contract could complicate their efforts next summer to re-sign or replace restricted free agents like Blais or Kaapo Kakko and would ensure Strome's departure via free agency next summer.
Given the Canucks' limited cap space, they could seek a promising, affordable youngster like Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere, but both are likely off-limits. They could attempt to shore up their blue line by asking for a young defenseman like Nils Lundkvist or K'Andre Miller and one of the Rangers' two second-round picks in next year's draft.