When New York Islanders forward Bo Horvat addressed the media down in South Florida, he was still in shock that he had been traded. The pending unrestricted free agent failed to reach an extension with the Vancouver Canucks, the team who had drafted him ninth overall in 2013 and the place he spent the first nine years of his career.
Rather than the Canucks losing him for nothing after the 2022-23 season, they shipped Bo Horvat to the Islanders in exchange for top prospect Aatu Räty, Anthony Beauvillier, and a 2023 conditional first-round pick.
One of the first questions Horvat was asked when we spoke with him on the night of the trade, Jan. 30, was if he had talked with Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello regarding a contract extension.
“Nothing has been discussed yet. It all kind of all happened so fast. So yeah, no talk on it yet,” Horvat said. “Obviously, we’ll see if we can get something done, but I’ll leave that to Pat (Morris, his agent) and everybody to handle that.”
Flash-forward less than a week later, six days, and Bo Horvat is a New York Islanders for the next eight years, with an average annual value of $8.5 million.
Horvat had the ability to play out this year with the Islanders or another team if he was flipped at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline (the likely situation if he had not been extended by then) and hear offers from a handful of teams during free agency.
The 27-year-old decided not to go that route, signing his extension with New York before he even hit the ice with his new team, before he got the chance to explore the area.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the culture, organization, and you know, I think they can win right now,” Horvat said. “Obviously, they have a little bit of a ways to go to make the playoffs and stuff, but they have a great core group of guys here that know what it takes to win, and I can’t wait to be a part of that here for eight more years.”
Even before the trade, Horvat shared that the island and the Islandes was a place already on his mind.
“My wife and I talked about this place a lot. Honestly, it was probably in my top five right from the beginning,” Horvat said. “Just from what I’ve heard from it, obviously the team, the organization. And then, obviously, I don’t know the area too, too well, but I can’t wait to get to know it for eight years here.”
The thought of playing elsewhere or having to even worry about his immediate future following the season was not something he wanted to do.
“Honestly, it’s a relief, to be honest with you. It’s been a mental grind, to say the least,” Horvat said. “And to finally lock it in and kind of be set up somewhere for the…the unknowing was kind of the place or the thing that was kind of hindering me and my family the most, so to be locked in here for years is special to me, it’s special to my family, and we can’t wait to get everybody here.”
Horvat already knew a few players in the room, having played with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Josh Bailey at the 2018 Worlds. Those players and rest of his new Islanders teammates were so welcoming from the beginning, which impacted his decision.
“Everyone has been so welcoming. I feel right at home here,” Bo Horvat said. “All the guys have been great towards me and welcoming me, and shooting me text messages before I got here.”
“I feel like I’ve known them for a little little bit of time now, so I can’t wait to keep getting to know them.”
Players are one thing. The area, the schools, as he has a few kids, is another. And his new teammates helped sell Long Island.
“They couldn’t obviously say enough things about it,” Horvat said. “The people here, the city, the fans, and everything, so it just got me that much more excited coming here, and I just can’t wait to start playing games now.”
The New York Islanders are currently two points out of a wild card spot. Usually players of his caliber are acquired by teams already in the playoffs.
NYI Hockey Now asked Horvat if it meant more to him that the Islanders look at him as a player that can get them in.
“Yes, it does. And it just makes me…you’re gonna do whatever you can to help this team win,” Horvat said. “And for them to put their trust in me and believe in me, it just makes me want to work that much harder and push myself that much more to try to get these guys in the playoffs and win hockey games.”
Bo Horvat will make his New York Islanders debut Monday night as they face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, with puck drop at 7 PM.