Bo Horvat’s departure from Vancouver was always considered a possibility. Then it became a reality on Monday when the Canucks traded their captain to the New York Islanders.
Horvat will be moving to Long Island in exchange for forward Anthony Beauvillier, future forward Aatu Raty and a conditional pick in the first round of this year’s draft, the teams announced. The decision to leave Horvat was expected, as he was a pending unrestricted free agent who had not yet come to an agreement with the Canucks on a new deal. However, the fact that he went to the Islanders turned out to be a bit surprising as they were not among the teams that were rumored to be in the game.
The Islanders finished the weekend trailing Metropolitan Division foes the Pittsburgh Penguins by two points for the final Eastern Conference wild card spot. However, the Penguins have played three fewer games than the Islanders with the Sabers between the two while also playing the same amount of games as the Penguins.
Adding Horvat gives the Islanders a top-six center whose 31 goals are tied for eighth, while his 54 points are tied for 21st. He also gives the islanders an attacker who can be trusted in a number of situations. Horvat led all Canucks forward in five-on-five ice time short minutes and placed second in power play minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick.
As for trying to keep Horvat long term? The 27-year-old is in the final season of a six-year contract extension with an average annual value of $5.5 million. He would be one of four waiting UFAs on the Islanders list — defenseman Scott Mayfield, forward Zach Parise and goaltender Semyon Varlamov — who need a new deal. CapFriendly projects that the islands would have $16.275 million in available cap space.
Saying goodbye to Horvat is also the latest in a challenging season for the Canucks. They came into the 2022-23 campaign with playoff expectations after Bruce Boudreau replaced Travis Green after an 8-15-2 start. From there, the Canucks found cohesion under Boudreau and went 32-15-10 for the remainder of the season. Although they were five points away from a wild card spot, what Boudreau achieved created expectations that the Canucks might reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2019–20 season.
Instead, the team opened this season with a seven-game losing streak, collecting just two points from a pair of losses in overtime. The Canucks came closest to .500 on December 27 when they were 16-15-3 only to lose seven of their next eight games, which has now expanded to eight losses on January 21 – the day that turned out to be the last match from Boudreau behind the bench.
The Canucks fired Boudreau and replaced him with former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who had previously served as an analyst on TNT’s broadcasts. The Canucks won their first game under Tocchet, but lost their second – a five-goal defeat to the Seattle Kraken – prompting Tocchet to say in his post-game remarks that the team was “soft”.
All of those events have also resulted in the Canucks being closer to the lottery than they are to the playoffs. They were 14 points off the final Western Conference wild card spot arriving Monday, while trailing the Chicago Blackhawks by nine points, who currently have the fewest points in the West and second fewest in the NHL behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets had 33 points to start the week, while the Blackhawks had 34.
Beauvillier’s arrival now means the Canucks have a top nine striker who could be part of their future plans at 25 years old. He has nine goals and 20 points in 49 games. He is currently on track to finish the season with 34 points, which would equal what he scored in 75 games last season. As for that future? Getting Raty and a first pick could also be beneficial for years to come.
Raty, who was once considered a first round pick, finished in the second round in 2021. The Finnish center played another season at home for Jukurit, on loan from Karpat in the Liiga, the top division. of Finnish hockey, where he scored 13 goals and 40 points in 41 games. Raty moved to North America at the beginning of this season, where he mainly played for the AHL affiliate of the Islanders. He has seven goals and 15 points in 27 games in the AHL and also has two points in 12 games with the Islanders this season. Raty’s most recent game came on Sunday when he recorded just under nine minutes and two shots in the Islanders’ 2-1 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights before being loaned to the AHL.
Tying the Islanders’ first round to their own first round gives the Canucks more traction in what is considered a promising draft class. It’s possible that the Canucks are one of several teams still in the running to get the No. 1 pick to get expected top skater Connor Bedard. Overall, the Canucks have four picks in the first three rounds and seven overall.