In the 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders forward Bo Horvat showed off that swiss-army knife ability as he scored a shorthanded goal to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead about eight minutes into the game.
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) February 26, 2023
The Islanders never looked back.
Horvat has been a critical addition to the Islanders, especially with Mathew Barzal (week-to-week) missing the last four games.
In 11 games with New York, the 27-year-old has five goals and three assists, averaging 21:07 minutes per game, winning 54.2 percent of his face-offs.
Besides serving as the Islanders’ top centerman, Horvat has played on the top power-play unit, taking Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s spot in the bumper position.
With Pageau missing the last seven games, Horvat has also filled in on the penalty kill and has thrived there as well.
That begs one question.
Has Bo Horvat made Jean-Gabriel Pageau expendable as the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline is upon us?
There’s not much talk surrounding Pageau or his availability, but despite his cap hit, a handful of teams could use his swiss-army knife style, one being the Carolina Hurricanes.
Pageau has three more years remaining on his contract, with a cap hit of $5 million.
The 30-year-old has been out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, being placed on Injured Reserve retroactive to Feb. 11.
He did not make the trip to Winnipeg and is not expected to join the Islanders in Minnesota for their Tuesday night showdown against the Wild.
It’s doubtful that Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello would part ways with Pageau, especially while the Islanders are in a playoff spot and his absence has been unfillable given the current roster.
However, come the 2023 NHL Draft, could the Islanders shed some cap knowing they have Horvat signed long-term through 2031?
Before he went down with a lower-body injury (week-to-week), Barzal was playing on Horvat’s wing, and given how they looked, that’s likely something that could stick next season.
With that being the case, the Islanders still have four centermen and are one of the deeper teams at that position.
Another caveat to this is how Lamoriello, or whoever the future general manager is constructs the fourth line.
Matt Martin, Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck have served as members of the fourth line since 2013, besides the two years Martin was in Toronto. But injuries to Clutterbuck have kept that line broken up for most of the season.
Cizikas has played higher up at center and even on the wing, while Martin has found himself alongside Horvat in Barzal’s spot over the last few games.
If the Islanders were to move Pageau, they could sign a cheaper third-line centerman in the offseason or trade for one. Or they could elevate Cizikas, making him the third-line center, and get a player like Nick Bjugstad or Nick Bonino to serve as the fourth-line center.
There are certainly options there.
Here are other pending unrestricted free-agent centers that could be had for cheap, per Spotrac.
None of these players do everything that a Jean-Gabriel Pageau can do. But, again, with Horvat here, is Pageau a need or just a luxury?
Bo Horvat is a few years younger than Pageau, and while both do an exceptional job on special teams, five-on-five, and in the face-off dot, the Islanders need goal scorers, and Horvat brings more in that regard.
Pageau has 10 goals in 56 games, while Horvat, in a career year, has 35 but has scored over 30 in each of the last three seasons.
Having both players in the lineup daily makes the New York Islanders that much of a deeper team. But in this salary cap world, teams need to do what they can to save money, give themselves opportunities to land bigger fish, and retain their own talent.
The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline is four days away.