The New York Islanders pulled off a shocking move on Monday, acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks.
In exchange for Horvat, the Islanders sent Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a top-12 protected first-round pick in this year's draft the other way. The Canucks also retained 25 per cent of Horvat’s salary, with his deal expiring this summer.
Horvat has put together a massive season for the Canucks and is a consistent, scoring center. The Islanders’ offense has been a clear issue for many years and obviously, adding Horvat goes a long way to addressing it.
It’s also going to be really interesting to see how Horvat’s arrival changes the Islanders’ look down the middle, with three natural centers in their top-nine already. With Horvat being one of the league’s top centers in the faceoff circle, it seems like there’s a strong chance we see Mathew Barzal shifted to the wing.
At the same time, there are reasons to be skeptical. I do feel guilty about consistently reiterating how much the Islanders need to add scoring and then listing possible issues with the deal when they finally do make a move, but there are at least some things to flag with this trade.
For starters, Horvat is putting together a career year right now, posting numbers far better than he has over much of his career. His 50-goal and 90-point pace is almost certainly unsustainable in future years, considering he’s been very consistently scoring at a pace of around 30 goals and 60 points per 82 on a yearly basis. It’s likely to be a similar situation to what we saw with Nazem Kadri, where he had an outstanding season with the Colorado Avalanche in his contract year, warranting a massive contract, but his production has since dropped back down to a more expected (while still solid) rate. This isn’t a knock, but more so a caution that we shouldn’t expect Horvat to maintain this kind of offensive output in future years.
The deal working out is also completely contingent on Horvat re-signing. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and considering what New York gave up, a long-term extension needs to be a priority. As for the pieces they sent the other way:
Aatu Raty is arguably the organization’s top prospect and for a team that has one of the weaker prospect pools in the league, it hurts to lose him. I’m not necessarily as high on Raty as many are, but again, there’s a good chance he could’ve been a piece to build around.
Add on the fact they’re giving up their first-round pick as well, and it’ll mark the fourth year in a row the Islanders don’t have a first rounder. Giving up yet another first-round pick while the team continues to get older means the Islanders could be setting themselves up for issues down the road. Even while this year’s pick is protected, if that protection is actually needed and the Islanders end up missing the playoffs and keeping their pick, an unprotected 2024 first-round pick is then in play.
As for Beauvillier, I don’t think the loss will be felt in a major way. At his best, Beauvillier looked like a contributing top-six winger. He had the speed and when he was on his game, he could use it to be an effective forechecker, with decent offensive skills and the ability to score goals. Consistency was always the issue though and over the last two years, Beauvillier wasn’t providing the impact we’d expected (or that justified his contract in the first place). Over 124 games through the last two seasons, he scored at a pace of just 14 goals and 36 points per 82 games. At 25 years old, he’s probably not going to end up becoming that top-six winger we once thought he could’ve been. As a result, shedding the $4.15 million cap hit probably wasn’t the worst thing.
At the same time, this move gives New York a chance to get back into the playoff race. If they do, they’re then just giving up a pick in the high-teens or even the twenties, which is much easier to justify. Then with Raty, he could be a contributing NHLer but at least in my view, won’t necessarily end up being a star, while moving Beauvillier and his cap hit really isn’t a huge loss. As a result, there’s certainly a path with this trade where the Islanders have added a star and end up locking him up long-term, in exchange for a pretty light return.
Looping back to Horvat and the extension though, as much as the Islanders need to re-sign him, you have to think they’ve potentially set themselves up in a position to overpay on a new contract. It’s clear that re-signing him is going to be a priority for the team based on what they gave up, and if we know that, Horvat’s camp knows that as well and can look to drive up the price a bit.
The Islanders and Horvat reportedly also hadn’t opened contract talks yet, which does still leave the possibility on the table that New York traded a lot of assets for a player who can walk away at the end of the year.
Essentially, there are a lot of possible outcomes here and there’s uncertainty that comes from the deal. At the same time, at least for right now, the Islanders are in a much better position up front.
It’s also just exciting to see the team make a move. It feels like the organization has been a bit stagnant over the last little while, without a strong enough roster to really make a legitimate playoff run, but not doing a ton about it. This move at least builds some excitement and sets a clear direction for the rest of the year (and future).
It’s certainly a bit of a gamble that could be looked at very positively or very negatively in a few years down the road but for now, Bo Horvat is a New York Islander, and the team has 30 games left to get back on track and find their way to the playoffs.