After seventeen season games, Lane Lambert, first-year head coach for the New York Islanders, has yet to perfect his attacking line.
He introduced 13 different line combinations per MoneyPuck (minimum 10 minutes). And despite an 11-6-0 record and 3.35 goals per game, another striker could help.
That missing piece could be waiting for the Canucks captain in Vancouver Bo Horvat.
Despite his team’s ugly 5-9-3 start, Horvat has made a fiery start with 14 goals and six assists in 17 games. The 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. And given how things are going, he deserves a raise from the $5.5 million he currently makes annually.
TSN reported on September 22 that contract negotiations between Vancouver and Horvat’s camp had been dragging on. The belief was that if a deal didn’t materialize by the March trading deadline, Horvat would be moved.
Flash forward almost two months later, this is the latest. Per Rick Dhaliwal from CHEK TV, the Canucks have no plans to meet with Horvat’s agent when the club travel to Toronto but the goal is still to extend it. Also, there is no sign of a pending trade for Vancouver at this time.
If New York thinks Horvat can certainly help them win hockey games — especially in the playoffs (if applicable) — then now is the time to take advantage of the cap space available and bring in a few NHL players and Packing up prospects to close a deal.
The Islanders have traded their first-round picks in each of the last four years. Most recently, they switched their first-round player in 2022 (13th overall) to defender Alexander Romanov.
Fun Fact: As general manager of the New Jersey Devils, Lou Lamoriello traded goaltender Cory Schneider from the Canucks in exchange for the ninth overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Vancouver made the pick for Horvat.
A few weeks ago, Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman reported that there were Islanders scouts in Vancouver, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
So what would New York have to offer for Horvat?
That depends on whether Horvat signs an extension or not. The hypothetical guess is that if Lamoriello gave up prospects and selections, he would sign Horvat on a multi-year extension, as we saw at the time Jean-Gabriel Pageau came over from the Ottawa Senators and immediately signed a six-year extension.
Right now, the islanders have $13.46 million in deadline cap space, the to need It is not necessary to include an NHL starter in the deal to recover costs. But they could make some room by moving Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15m) or Josh Bailey ($5m) as they need to create an everyday roster spot, and those two are struggling.
Nikita Soshnikov was placed on the waiver Tuesday, meaning New York has one roster spot available if no one is called up. In theory, players like Beauvillier and Bailey could be scraped healthy by Lambert, with New York having more than Ross Johnston as an extra striker.
But if one can be moved commercially, that could allow the Islanders to go and potentially add a top-four defender to bolster the backend, regardless of how Sebastian Aho has been playing lately.
Let’s start with the potential customers that could be included.
Both Aatu Raty and William Dufour hold value in the trading market. Raty, a two-way center, could be intriguing to Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin, especially if he trades one. If Vancouver transfers Horvat, it likely means they undergo a full rebuild. And Räty is not a bad piece to initiate the turnaround.
I will add that the Canucks have their pick for the first round and when they go into full tank mode Connor Bedardhe’s a centerman, so maybe they want a winger instead.
Dufour is unknown at this point in his young career. Given how dominant he was in the QMJHL, winning the MVP and Memorial Cup with the St. John Sea Dogs, his value could never be that high again.
As the infamous saying goes, “buy low, sell high.”
Both could be a piece of the trade puzzle alongside Beauvillier and Bailey. Of course, New York would have to throw in a few draft picks.
If the Canucks take over the last year of Bailey’s contract, it makes sense to throw in a first to get that done. If not, a second and third customer might suffice.
Now Vancouver may not want two forwards in a deal and may want to bring in defensive prospects. The islanders have a few in Samuel Bolduc, Calle Odelius and Isaiah George to seduce. New York’s prospects are not untouchable, especially when they’re in win-now mode.
George excelled during development camp, so it would be ideal if the islanders could hold onto him.
This is an example of what a potential deal for Horvat could look like:
To Canucks: Josh Bailey, William Dufour, 1st 2023, 4th 2023
To the islanders: Bo Horvat
New York needs a forward, and Horvat’s game would complement the Islanders’ structured game. Since Horvat is a centre, someone would have to switch to the wing. We’ve seen Mathew Barzal play wing late in games and practice this season, and Brock Nelson has played wing earlier as well.
Having too many centers is not a problem and the addition of a player like Horvat at 27 (not a player like Nazem Kadri at 31) makes the move logical.
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