Twenty-nine games into the season, New York Islanders first-year head coach Lane Lambert hasn’t perfected his forward lines.
Per MoneyPuck, he’s rolled out 20 different line combinations (10-minute minimum). And despite a 17-12-0 record and 3.17 goals per game, adding another forward prior to or at this year’s trade deadline on Mar. 3 is a need if the Islanders want to not only get to the playoffs, but give themselves a chance at hoisting a Stanley Cup.
That missing piece might be waiting in Vancouver, in Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
Horvat is currently fourth in the NHL with 20 goals and has 29 points in 28 games this season.
The Canucks, who earlier in the season seemed to be destined for the bottom of the NHL standings, have turned things around as they sit just four points out of the second wild card spot in the West. But besides the turnaround, Horvat will not be part of the turnaround.
Per Rick Dhaliwal, Horvat has rejected the latest Canucks contract offer with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun adding that Canucks will now be focusing on making a trade.
Further to @DhaliwalSports’s report, told that the Canucks made Horvat’s camp the new contract offer a couple of weeks ago. With the offer rejected, Canucks focused on the trade market between now and March 3 https://t.co/7aWU39ucCD
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 12, 2022
The 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. And given how it’s going, he’s due for a pay raise from the $5.5 million he is currently making annually.
TSN reported back on Sept. 22 that contract talks between Vancouver and Horvat’s camp were dragging. The belief was that if a deal wasn’t in place by the trade deadline in March, Horvat will be moved. With the latest news, that belief is now a reality.
If New York thinks that Horvat can surely help them win hockey games — especially in the playoffs (if applicable) — then now’s the time to use the available cap space and package a few NHL players and prospects to get a deal done.
Fun fact: As New Jersey Devils general manager, Lou Lamoriello acquired goaltender Cory Schneider from the Canucks in exchange for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Vancouver went on to select Horvat with that pick.
The Islanders have traded their first-round picks in each of the last four years. Most recently, they moved their 2022 first-rounder (13th overall) for defenseman Alexander Romanov.
Prior to the Romanov deal, sources confirmed to NYI Hockey Now that the Islanders and the Canucks were involved in talks on the draft floor for J.T.Miller, but the trade did not come to fruition. Could the Islanders have an interest in Horvat now?
On Oct. 31, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that there were Islanders scouts in Vancouver, which was something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
So, what would New York need to offer for Horvat?
That depends on if Horvat is signing an extension or not. The hypothetical guess is that if Lamoriello was giving up prospects and picks, he would be signing Horvat to a multi-year extension like we saw when Jean-Gabriel Pageau came over from the Ottawa Senators and immediately signed a six-year extension.
Right now, the Islanders have $10.895 million in deadline cap space, so the need to include an NHL regular in the deal to offload expenses isn’t necessary. But they could clear some space by moving Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 million) or Josh Bailey ($5 million), as they need to create an everyday roster spot, and these two have struggled.
But if one can be moved in the trade, that may allow the Islanders to go and potentially add a top-4 defenseman to bolster the backend as well.