Bo Horvat is no longer a Vancouver Canuck. After 621 games with the organization, Horvat was traded on Monday to the New York Islanders for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a top-12 protected first round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks are also retaining 25% of Horvat’s contract for this season.
It was obvious that big changes were coming for the Canucks and Horvat’s breakout season meant that the team couldn’t afford to re-sign him. It was crucial that the Canucks t a good return on the 27-year-old All-Star centre to set the foundation for this retool/rebuild of the roster.
All in all, Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin did a pretty good job at getting a sizeable package back for Horvat. It was clear that it was going to be difficult to get a monster return. Every team in the league is aware of the Canucks’ cap issues and Horvat’s inflated shooting percentage means that his true value is less than his gaudy goal-scoring pace this season.
Getting a useable middle-six winger, a prospect that immediately becomes one of the best in the organization, and a first round pick is a pretty solid haul. The acquisition of futures such as the first round pick and Raty allows the Canucks to focus on moving money out in the short term while aiming to be competitive down the line.
The Canucks’ poor bargaining position
The Canucks did not have a ton of leverage when making this trade. The organization has handed out plenty of money over the last 12 months, signing Ilya Mikheyev, J.T. Miller, and Andrei Kuzmenko to significant contracts. Coupled alongside the bloated contracts already on the roster, it was no secret that the Canucks didn’t have much money to play with.
There wasn’t much threat of the Canucks pulling Horvat off the trade market. If they had done so, the odds that he would’ve walked in free agency and left the organization empty-handed were very high. This meant that other teams could wait it out.
The Canucks also didn’t let other teams discuss an extension with Horvat during this process. Lou Lamoriello confirmed in a press conference yesterday that the Islanders had not discussed a new contract with Horvat’s camp. This also likely played a role in how trade negotiations went down.
Breaking down the return
This three-pronged return is similar to what was being discussed for J.T. Miller last season as it includes a roster player, a prospect, and a first round pick. Although the salary commitment is the same for the Canucks this season due to the 25% of Horvat’s contract they’ll continue to pay, this deal offers some cap relief in the near future.
Anthony Beauvillier has one season on his contract remaining after this one at a cap hit of $4.15 million. After scoring 21 goals in 71 games as an NHL sophomore, his stats have steadily trended downwards. While he’s never broken the 40 point mark, he has scored double digit goals in each of his last five seasons and needs one more this year to make it six.
Aatu Raty is the most intriguing piece of this trade. He was selected 52nd overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and has 15 points in 27 AHL games this season. He’s a centre that possesses a strong shot. He will get a chance to play with some of the organization’s best young talent in Abbotsford for the rest of this season.
Last but not least, trading for a first round pick is a huge milestone for the Canucks’ organization. Finally, the team is acquiring a draft pick instead of sending them away. While the pick may be top-12 protected this year, having it roll over to next season would not be the worst thing for the Canucks. The Islanders are not a great team and have plenty of ageing pieces, meaning they could regress next season.
This trade makes the Canucks a weaker team in the short-term. However, it’s good to see management accept the fact that they’re not going to be contenders for a few seasons at least and make a big move that opens some cap space and brings in young assets.
Setting the foundation
This trade is a great way to start performing the major surgery that this roster needs. The focus now shifts to moving other players in an attempt to receive more of these futures-focused trade packages.
While some may rue the lack of a defenceman in the return, the positional factor can come second. The Canucks are not going to be a Stanley Cup contender for years and getting as much young talent and picks as possible should be the current goal, no matter the position.
To get better, the Canucks are going to need to get worse. They made the best of this bad situation. While it sucks to see Horvat move on, it was a necessary loss to set the stage for what could be a very strong team in a few years time.