For the last two months the Vancouver Canucks had been shopping Bo Horvat to other NHL teams but as late as last Tuesday management spoke with his agent about a deal to keep the nine-year veteran.
When those talks didn’t produce a deal, and with their playoff hopes all but faded away, the Canucks made the decision Monday to trade their captain and the team’s leading goal scorer to the New York Islanders in exchange for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty, plus a protected 2023 first-round draft pick.
“From our side, we never closed any doors,” Vancouver general manager Patrik Allvin told a hastily called news conference.
“I think the timing was right. We were happy with the return. I think it was a good hockey trade for both teams.”
Horvat’s contact situation has been a hot topic in Vancouver. The 27-year-old was earning US$5.5 million in the final year of his current deal. He was enjoying a career-year by leading the Canucks with 31 goals and was second in scoring with 54 points in 49 games.
“It wasn’t easy, with everything that went on,” Horvat told reporters in New York about the pressure he had been feeling. “The unknown and my family’s unknown. It’s going to be a fresh start.”
The Horvat trade could be the first domino to fall for the struggling Canucks. The deal comes eight days after head coach Bruce Boudreau was fired and replaced with Rick Tocchet.
The Canucks enter the NHL all-star break in sixth place in the Pacific Division with a 20-26-3 record.
With the Canucks in danger of missing the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years, Allvin indicated more deals are possible before the March 3 trade deadline.
“We’re definitely sitting in the standings in the bottom, so we need to improve our team,” he said. “As we said when we got here (we’re) trying to get younger.
“We’ve got five weeks to the trading deadline, so I would assume that more calls will come along here.”
Beauvillier, selected by the Islanders in the first round (28th overall) in the 2015 draft, has nine goals and 11 assists in 49 games this season. He has 102 goals and 107 assists in 457 career games.
Raty, picked by New York in the second round (52nd overall) in 2021, has two goals in 12 games with the Islanders. He also has seven goals and eight assists in 27 games with the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Islanders.
“I think it was important for us to get a first-round pick back,” said Allvin. “We got a young prospect in Aatu Raty, and we’re getting a 25-year-old player in Anthony Beauvillier that has been playing pretty consistent for the New York Islanders over the last couple of years.
“I like the details he plays with, his tenacity, his puck hunting. I think he will fit in well here in our top six group on the left side.”
Under the deal, the Canucks are retaining 25 per cent of Horvat’s cap hit.
The condition on the draft pick is that if it’s a top-12 pick, the Canucks don’t get it until 2024.
Allvin was asked if Vancouver received enough for Horvat.
“I think the market dictates what the players are worth,” he said. “In this case we’re really excited with what we got back.”
Horvat had been a Canuck since Vancouver selected the London, Ont., native ninth overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft. He was named Vancouver’s captain in 2019 and was set to represent the Canucks at the upcoming NHL all-star weekend in Sunrise, Fla.
In 621 games he has 201 goals and 219 assists.
Horvat’s future in Vancouver looked to be sealed when the Canucks signed 29-year-old J.T. Miller to a seven-year, $US56-million contract in September. It seemed unlikely the Canucks could afford two players earning more than US$7 million a year.
“We were definitely hoping that there was a deal to be made with Bo here,” said Allvin. “We certainly wanted to keep him here.
“But when we made our offer and were understanding that might not be the case, my job is to check around the league and talk to teams and see if they have any interest … and if there is a potential return.”
Horvat will join an Islanders team in the midst of a dogfight for a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders sit fourth in the conference’s wild-card standings, two points behind second-place Pittsburgh, with a 25-22-5 record.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said Horvat will make his team better.
“He brings a two-way game,” he said. “Over the past several years (he has been) a 30 to 35 goal scorer. I think that’s going to add a need for us.
“You make this type of transaction because you can improve your team today and tomorrow. In my opinion he makes us a better team and gives us a better opportunity to get where we want to go.”
Allvin said centre Elias Pettersson and defenceman Quinn Hughes could be potential replacements as captain.
The newest Canucks will be made available to reporters on Tuesday morning via a Zoom call.
—Jim Morris, The Canadian Press