Whoever said that good things come to those who wait was obviously not a fan of the Vancouver Canucks.
Nearly a full decade after being drafted at ninth overall, captain Bo Horvat is officially on the trade block. If reports are to be believed, contract negotiations have hit a snag, with the Canucks making their “best offer” which Horvat’s camp declined, and now a trade out of town seems all but inevitable.
We don’t have to like it, but we do have to write about it.
Earlier in the week, we took a crack at establishing a bare minimum asking price for Horvat’s services, and found it to be quite high — something in the range of a 2023 first round pick, a premium prospect, and a useful roster player.
But who might be willing to pay that price?
More teams than not, as it turns out. We put together a list of all the teams who could feasibly be interested in trading for Horvat, and ended up with 16 teams, representing more than half of the available trade market.
That’s a real testament to Horvat’s near-universal value, and all the more evidence that the Canucks should bring back a haul whenever they finally deal him to one of these teams.
As the worst team in the league by a wide margin this season, the Ducks should have no real interest in trading for a pending UFA. That said, they’ve got almost no real salary committed beyond this season, and are thus one of the teams best situated to offer Horvat a hefty extension. They could look to get a leg up on signing him by trading for him now, and it’s not hard to see how Horvat would fit in as a leader and stabilizing force for their young crop of forwards.
The Canucks would almost certainly love to avoid dealing Horvat within the division, but they could see the Ducks as non-threatening enough to consider it. Anaheim’s own 2023 first rounder is off the table, but they’ve got plenty of other picks and prospects to offer, and could take back cap dumps.
The Bruins want Horvat for two reasons. One, they’ve got most of the band back together for one last run this season, and Horvat could help put them over the top. Two, very soon, Boston is going to have to move on from their one-two center punch of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and the franchise may not be ready to commit to a full rebuild.
Horvat could keep the Boston window open for a few more years. With more than half of their forwards pending UFAs, the Bruins will have cash to burn this offseason, making an extension no issue. The prospect of seeing Horvat in black and gold is a painful one, however, so the Bruins better be prepared to make a compelling offer.
Let’s be real here, the odds of the Canucks trading Horvat to their next-door rivals are extremely long, but that doesn’t mean that Calgary won’t make an offer. They’ve been looking for the final piece to their top-six all season long, and Horvat would be it, whether he slots in at center or on the wing.
The Flames are a little light on prospects and very light on cap space for next season, so it’s pretty unlikely that they’re the top bidder, and they’ll pretty much need to be in order to land Horvat. But if they’re truly determined to add him, you never know.
The Hurricanes are one of the two best fits to be found for Horvat, and are already a strong Cup contender even without him in the fold. With Horvat, they’d be a force to be reckoned with. Carolina’s one current weak spot is at 2C, where Horvat could easily slide in and replace Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and the Hurricanes have a ton of cap space available in the offseason to make him a permanent fixture there.
Carolina has also held onto a majority of its picks and prospects by picking up major additions for cheap, leaving them with lots to offer as a return for Horvat. It might be a case of quantity over quality, but the Hurricanes can definitely pay the bill.
The Avalanche are the other best fit to be found for Horvat, and definitely represent his best shot at a Stanley Cup. They’re nearly as much of a contender as they were last year, but they’ve got a big hole down the middle where Nazem Kadri departed, and Horvat is probably the single best player available to fill it.
The Avalanche will struggle to find enough draft and prospect capital to make a compelling offer, but their 2023 first is available and so are all of their notable prospects. They do have more than $10 million in cap opening up in the offseason, but a good chunk of that is going to Nathan MacKinnon’s extension, so their chances of keeping Horvat around are somewhat questionable. They could be looking at him as a pure rental, and that will affect the price.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have committed to two-thirds of a veteran top line in the form of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine, but they seem to have forgotten about the need for a center to put between them. The prospects aren’t ready yet, and all of their other options are middling. Horvat looks, at the very least, better than anything they’ve already got on hand.
Columbus had designs on a playoff spot this season, but that’s clearly not going to happen. So, they’d only trade for Horvat if they were able to negotiate an extension ahead of time. That should help the value, and the Blue Jackets are absolutely loaded with high-profile prospects at virtually every position. The only real challenge here is them finding enough cap space in 2023/24 to accommodate the presumably high salary that Horvat would demand to move to Ohio.
Detroit Red Wings
Horvat just seems like a Steve Yzerman sort of player, and might be the perfect piece to add to a young group on the rise. Horvat fits nicely in between veteran centers Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp, and provides plenty of insulation to a forward corps that is light on experience and high-end talent, but big on depth.
The Red Wings do need to re-sign their own captain, Larkin, this offseason, and it is a little difficult to imagine them doing that and then offering an even larger contract to a similar player in Horvat. But if negotiations sour with Larkin, or if Yzerman really zeroes in on Horvat, the possibility remains open. If so, the Wings definitely have ample picks and prospects at the ready, and may be more willing to part with them now that they’re in a playoff position.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings continue to be in a weird spot. Their much-vaunted prospects haven’t quite stepped up in the way they have hoped, and yet their veterans are performing at a high enough level to keep Los Angeles in a playoff position. At some point, the Kings have to stop building for the future and building for the now, and the acquisition of Horvat would go a long way there.
The Kings are loaded up with forwards at all positions, so Horvat would definitely be a luxury item. Then again, he’d combine with Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault to form the best 1-2-3 two-way center combination in the league, and that would make the Kings a monster in the playoffs.
There’s also that amazing crop of young RHDs to consider, one of which the Canucks would definitely expect back in a trade. The only real obstacle here is that trading for and extending Horvat could be seen as blocking Quinton Byfield’s progress with the organization.
The Wild have been doing remarkably well for a team without a first line center. Imagine if they had one. Minnesota has been rotating names like Ryan Hartman, Sam Steel, and Frederick Gaudreau on Kirill Kaprizov’s line, and Horvat would constitute a serious upgrade to the situation.
The Wild would have enough room under the cap to extend Horvat, even with those hefty buyout penalties to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on the books. They’ve also got a suite of D prospects to potentially offer up in return, and enough general depth to cover the losses. They might not be the most exciting name on the market, but they do look like one of the strongest contenders to snag Horvat’s services now and in the future.
On the one hand, the Predators have a lot of money already committed to a lot of pseudo-centers near the top of their lineup like Mikael Granlund, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Johansen. On the other hand, they’re still on the lookout for more offence, and they certainly don’t have anyone who can provide that at the same level as Horvat.
In a perfect world, Nashville would love to add Horvat to the mix, but their cap constraints for next season would make it unlikely for him to be anything other than a rental for them. That’s not really the Preds’ style, nor is paying the exorbitant price that renting Horvat should cost.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have been sniffing around the Canucks since the 2022 Entry Draft at the very least, and it’s assumed they’ve been looking for offence. The mercurial Islanders are back in the playoff mix, and they’re still in desperate need of some complementary scoring pieces, of which Horvat is an excellent example.
Though they both play the center position, there’s a fit to be found between Horvat, who only scores goals, and Mat Barzal, who only gets assists. It’s not hard to imagine the two finding a consistent and dynamic connection on the power play. The Islanders are a little light on prospects and on cap space for a Horvat extension, but there’s enough of a need here to suggest that Lou Lamoriello could figure it out if he put his mind to it.
The Flyers really shouldn’t trade for Horvat. They’re in desperate need of a rebuild, and adding Horvat to their forward corps isn’t going to change that. But they’ve got a decidedly old school front office led by Chuck Fletcher, and they’ve already shown a propensity for making short-term deals that don’t really pay off. They didn’t hire John Tortorella to oversee a youth movement, after all.
Horvat would join his cousin Travis Konecny and a collection of other middling forwards (until Sean Couturier returns from injury, that is). The Flyers would have to dump some cap to fit in an extension, but they’ve definitely got the future assets available to do that and pay the price for Horvat. Again, they really shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t.
We’re sure that the Penguins and Canucks have talked trade all season long, what with the inter-office connections, and we know that the Penguins are desperate to make one last push with the Crosby core.
Is Horvat an extreme luxury on a team that already has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter down the middle? Sure, but sometimes luxury is just what the doctor ordered. Horvat definitely fits onto their power play, and it doesn’t really matter where he plays at 5v5. Heck, throw him onto Crosby’s wing and watch those goal totals continue to skyrocket.
With a couple big contracts expiring, the Penguins could even offer Horvat a reasonable extension. The only place they fall short is in the quality of prospects that they can offer, so they might need to rely on some goodwill from Jim Rutherford to get a deal across the finish line.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are floundering this season, but are they really ready to commit to a rebuild? We’re not convinced.
Both Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are UFAs this offseason. That means that there’s ample cap space available for Horvat, as well as a clear need. He could take over for O’Reilly and continue to support the upcoming St. Louis forwards without missing a beat. If the Blues want to continue to go for it, Horvat looks like their best bet.
The Blues have maintained a decent crop of prospects that could be offered up, even if they’ll be a little touchy about moving their 2023 first. Where they’ll really struggle is in finding the cap space this season for Horvat, so retention might be required.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Watching Horvat skate around in blue-and-white is an unpleasant possibility, but it’s a very real one. The Leafs pretty much have to go all-in this season, and with their bevy of playmaking talent up front, another goal scorer would go a long way.
Believe it or not, the Leafs still have a ton of intriguing prospects to offer at plenty of positions, and they’ve shown a willingness to deal them. No one is under any real illusions about the Maple Leafs keeping Horvat beyond this year. They might have the cap space, but it’s better spent elsewhere. For this season, however, Horvat would be the ultimate rental. He either gives the Leafs the best 1-2-3 punch in the league down the middle, or he converts to the wing and helps form the best top-six in hockey. In any case, he transforms the Leafs from a contender to a CONTENDER — and maybe he even adds enough to get them out of the first round.
With Nicklas Backstrom out for potentially the entire season, the Capitals have both cap space to burn and a desire to find a replacement in their top-six. They’ve been doing just fine without Backstrom, but ‘just fine’ doesn’t get Alex Ovechkin a second Cup, and time is running out on that particular goal.
Should the Capitals push a little closer to the playoffs, and should Backstrom remain a long way off from returning, there’s a strong chance that Washington looks at Trade Deadline rentals, and Horvat will be the best of the bunch. Imagine a power play with both Ovechkin and Horvat as shooting options. The only real downside here is that Horvat might leech a few goals off of Ovechkin, and hurt the former’s chances of catching up to Wayne Gretzky.