The Vancouver Canucks have an anchor around their necks. The team has lost eight of ten, appear to be on the brink of a coaching change, and seems to be ready to move on from captain Bo Horvat. President Jim Rutherford recently explained that the team’s best offer didn’t line up with Horvat’s performance this season, suggesting an extension wasn’t going to be possible.
One other notable thing about Rutherford is that he often likes to make his big midseason moves well ahead of the trade deadline. He’s often been the first to act in an arms race, and now the spotlight is on him as a seller. On the latest 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet discussed which teams he has heard most connected to Horvat:
I think Seattle’s in it. I think Minnesota’s been around it, but can only do him as a rental. I think Boston’s been around it, but it is not easy for them to do.
The Carolina Hurricanes have also been linked to the Horvat sweepstakes, especially since Max Pacioretty’s injury last night. Friedman noted several times that the Hurricanes “don’t do rentals,” suggesting that a deal like that would need to come with an extension.
That is perhaps the most interesting part of the Horvat situation. Sometimes, players on expiring contracts are looking forward to testing the full open market. It doesn’t matter where they are or where they end up, the process of free agency is something they want to experience. From the outside, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Horvat’s negotiations in Vancouver. From all reports, he has been working in good faith with the desire to stay long-term with the Canucks – the two sides just can’t find a common ground.
If he is dealt, especially if it is soon, an acquiring team would have a little while to convince him to stay. Friedman reports that as of the podcast taping (Thursday night), no teams have been given permission to talk with Horvat’s representatives on an extension.
There are probably a dozen teams in the league that could use the 27-year-old for a serious playoff run, especially as he works his way through a career year. Already to 30 goals, his assists have also recently started to rack up, giving Horvat 49 points in 44 games. Positional versatility, goal scoring, leadership – all things that teams value greatly this time of year (anytime, really). A Horvat move could legitimately change the makeup of a team’s top-six for years to come, or offer a difference-making third-line pivot for a Stanley Cup run.