It has been a tough couple of years in Vancouver. They underwhelmed considerably last season and after adding some key pieces over the summer including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, and Jaroslav Halak, there was an expectation that they’d be back in playoff contention. That hasn’t happened as the Canucks have limped to a 6-13-2 record and are already fading from the postseason picture.
As is often the case with teams in this situation, trade speculation is sure to follow. In a recent interview on Sportsnet 650 (audio link), Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK and The Athletic reported that Vancouver is fielding plenty of trade calls but at this time, the bulk of those calls have been focused on one player – Bo Horvat.
The 26-year-old has been with Vancouver for his entire career after being drafted ninth overall back in 2013. He is in his third season as their captain and after he signed a long-term contract in 2017 following his entry-level deal, it felt like he was going to be a part of their plans for the long run. Along the way, he went from being deployed primarily as a checker into becoming a strong two-way center for the Canucks.
However, that contract is only a year and a half away from ending and with things certainly not looking great for Vancouver, it’s certainly reasonable to speculate as to whether or not Horvat would be willing to sign another long-term pact, particularly if they shift gears and look towards a rebuild. Clearly, several general managers around the league seem to have that idea with Horvat driving a lot of the trade inquiries at this stretch.
While Horvat is off to a bit of a slow start offensively this season with six goals and five assists through the first 21 games, he’s still the type of player that could command a sizable return. He still often receives the toughest checking assignments and is quite strong at the faceoff dot, elements that contending teams always covet while a change of scenery could certainly get him going offensively again as well.
Horvat carries a $5.5MM AAV this season and next which is certainly below market value for a player of his caliber. He also doesn’t have any trade protection which will make it a bit easier to facilitate a trade.
While Vancouver would understandably like to keep Horvat in the fold, he’s also arguably their best trade chip as none of their rentals – headlined by Halak and winger Tyler Motte – wouldn’t come close to yielding the type of return that Horvat would. If they do decide to rebuild, Horvat is the type of player that should bring back a minimum of a first-round pick and a top prospect plus likely some other pieces as well.
The future was supposed to be now in terms of Vancouver’s playoff prospects but that’s looking less and less likely. As a result, the Canucks may soon need to make some decisions about key veterans and with the type of interest Horvat appears to be generating, he could very well be a strong candidate to be traded if they indeed start looking towards the future.