Breaking down the saga for free...
The Initial Splash:
Bo Horvat spanning 9 seasons, played 621 games for the Vancouver Canucks and in doing so, solidified himself as one of the franchise greats. In franchise history, he ranks 10th all-time in points (420), 8th all-time in goals scored (201), 8th all-time in powerplay goals (67), and 6th all-time in shorthanded goals (11). He served as the team’s 14th captain from 2019-2023 and was in the midst of a breakout season that many thought would never come. Despite this, it was clear that Bo’s days were numbered as the team committed ever so valuable cap space to J.T Miller (8M), Andrei Kuzmenko (5.5M), and Ilya Mikheyev (4.75M) which left Bo on the outside looking in with an expiring contract. As a result, he instantly became one of the league’s top trade candidates and speculation spread like wildfire.
The speculation came to a head as the Canucks traded Horvat on January 30th, 2023. The Canucks joined six other teams who are without a captain as they traded Bo Horvat (25% retained) to the New York Islanders for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a top 12 protected first-round pick in the 2023 NHL draft.
The Islanders caught many off-guard as they lacked a deep prospect pool, were below the playoff bar, and had an aging/capped-out roster. By all standards, they should have been sellers, yet their desire to add scoring and go for a late-season playoff push led them to the best goal scorer on the market; Bo Horvat. The Islander's goal-scoring woes went beyond 5 on 5 as they ranked 30th in powerplay percentage (15.77%) and out of Horvat’s 31 goals, 11 were scored on the powerplay which was good for 9th most in the NHL at the time of the trade. Along with his ability to put the puck in the back of the net, Horvat established himself as one of the league’s elite faceoff Center’s and his versatility in his own end and on the PK only added to his value.
It's clear the Islanders got a hell of a player in Horvat so let’s examine what the Canucks got in return.
Aatu Raty is a 20-year-old center who garnered a lot of attention leading up to the 2021 NHL entry draft. He was originally a lock to be selected in the top 10 after his impressive international play with Finland, but Raty’s performance took a turn for the worse during the second half of the 2020-2021 season and so did his draft stock. When it was all said and done Raty was selected 52nd overall by the New York Islanders, 11 picks after Vancouver selected Danila Klimovich.
Raty went back to Finland and played for Kärpät and Jukurit in the Liiga where he notched 41 points in 47 games, an impressive stat line for a 19-year-old. This season Raty made the transition to North America and suited up for 12 games in the NHL notching 2 points and played 52 games in the AHL putting up 27 points. While the jury is still out on Raty, his size, IQ, creative hands, and deceptive shot already make him one of the team’s top prospects, filling a huge organizational need at Center. The one glaring hole in his game; however, is his skating ability as his acceleration and top-end speed are lacking, to say the least. At 20 years old Raty will have time to make strides in this area, but development isn’t linear, and the Canucks do take on some risk with a player like Raty. Currently in the second year of his entry-level contract which pays him 900k per season until 2025, many project him to fill the 3C role behind Elias Pettersson and J.T Miller.
Anthony Beauvillier was drafted in 2015 with the 28th overall pick and has played 457 games for the Islanders notching 209 points. The 25-year-old winger was often featured in the top six, playing alongside Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Josh Bailey, and also played on both special team units. Despite his prominent role with the Islanders, Beauvillier has not been able to break through offensively as he has never surpassed the 40-point mark.
Beauvillier has the ability to play both right and left-wing and in his Canucks debut, he was paired with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko. It’s clear that he is going to get an opportunity in the top six with Ilya Mikheyev shut down for the remainder of the season. Beauvillier is currently in the middle of his three-year, $12.45M contract, which pays him $4.15M AAV. He has one more year left on his contract and has the possibility of hitting free agency following the 2023-2024 campaign.
2023 First Round Pick (Top 12 Protected):
Perhaps the most intriguing asset the Canucks acquired is the New Islanders 2023 first-round pick. The pick is top 12 protected, meaning that the Islanders have the choice to differ the pick if it is in the top 12 in this year’s draft and would then send their unprotected 2024 first-round pick to the Canucks. The Canucks clearly prioritized the first-round pick with two very deep draft classes on the horizon. Alvin did well to target a team on the bubble as opposed to accepting a late first-round pick from a surefire playoff team.
What I Thought Was the Conclusion:
After the soap opera that has been the 2022-2023 Canucks, losing the captain was perhaps the most predictable and grounding move to occur all season. While the Canucks didn’t acquire any defenseman in the deal, this return is certainly palatable. They get a young prospect with a considerable amount of upside who also fills a positional need. Anthony Beauvillier in essence was trade to balance the cap. At 25 he is still young, and getting a chance to play with Elias Pettersson will certainly maintain his current value, but in all likelihood raise it for a trade deadline asset this or next season. The 2023 First Round Pick (Top 12 Protected) is the biggest variable in this trade. It is entirely possible that the Islanders finish poorly, retain the pick, and then do well in 2024 leaving the Canucks with a mid to late-20s pick, something they were trying to avoid in the first place. In all likelihood, the Islanders will just miss the playoffs and the Canucks will receive a pick in the mid-teens, giving them another opportunity to land a core piece.
Horvat was a good Canuck, but certainly wasn’t elite. He is in the record books, for now, and his character shouldn’t be discounted or overlooked. He was a consistent pro and gave a lot back to the community. Sadly, he is going to another directionless team with bloated ageing contracts that most likely he will be a part of. At 8.5M AAV for the next 8 seasons, the Canucks absolutely made the right choice moving on from Horvat and I think the return only looks better knowing how much he signed for. The Canucks are in store for a big shake-up and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This first section was written days after the Horvat trade broke ^
Just when you thought the Canucks were done, they shocked the hockey world as they traded the aforementioned 2023 first-round pick from the Islanders and a 2023 second-round pick of their own for Filip Hronek and a Detroit 2023 fourth-round pick.
Hronek, 25, was drafted 53rd overall by the Detroit Redwings in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and at the time of the trade had 9 goals and 29 assists through 60 games with Detroit. Hronek has been a consistent point producer from the moment he stepped foot in the NHL, scoring 156 points in 305 games. He instantly becomes the Canucks second best defenseman as he is a smooth-skating two-way defender who excels at breaking the puck out of his own zone and fills the biggest positional need on the team, right-handed defenseman. Hronek only suited up for 4 games with the Canucks registering 1 assist and was promptly shut down for the remainder of the season due to a lingering shoulder injury. His contract is very manageable for the time being only costing the Canucks 4.4 million a season; however, Hronek is entering the final year of his contract. It is important to note that he is a Restricted Free Agent, so the Canucks shouldn’t worry about losing for nothing and will have some leverage on contract negotiations.
The dust has settled somewhat, and an adequate time has passed since the Horvat and Hronek trades. How have these deals aged in their infancy and where do I see them going in the long term?
Bo Horvat’s trade value couldn’t have been any higher when the Canucks decided to trade him. He was on pace for a whopping 90 points, 52 goals, 18 powerplay goals, and had a career-high 58.5 faceoff percentage. The Islanders promptly signed him to an 8-year 68-million-dollar contract (8.5 AAV) only 6 days after the trade was made, and with the Islanders, Horvat’s production fell off a cliff. In 30 games he only put up 16 points, 1 powerplay goal, and his faceoff percentage took a 4% dip, to 54%. When pro-rating his production with New York he was on pace for an anemic 44 points and 3 powerplay goals, not an ideal first impression after signing the second-largest contract in Islander history. You could argue that the addition of Horvat enabled the Islanders to get into the playoffs, but when it was all said and done, they were defeated in 6 games by Carolina Hurricanes in the first round and Horvat only put up 2 points in the series.
Buyer’s remorse vastly understates how the Islanders and their fans feel about the trade up to this point and Horvat won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. While it is unlikely that he will be a career 44-point guy with the Islanders it is also equally unlikely that he will ever touch the success that he had with the Canucks in the early parts of last season. The Islanders gave up a lot of assets for Bo Horvat but perhaps the costliest asset was signing him to that enormous contract, a contract that will age like a glass of milk out in the sun.
Anthony Beauvillier found early success in his career with the Islanders as he put up 36 points in 71 games as a 20-year-old and then had his most productive season of his career 2 years later at the age of 22, putting up 39 points in 68 games. While he showed flashes of high-end upside during his Islanders tenure it was also marred by inconsistency and he was in the middle of a very unproductive year, only notching 20 points in 49 games. As soon as Beauvillier arrived in Vancouver he was given ample opportunity to show off his offensive talents, playing on a line with Pettersson and Kuzmenko whilst also receiving first-line powerplay time. The next 33 games would be the most productive of Beauvillier’s career as he posted 20 points and played 17 minutes a night, the second-highest of his career.
Beauvillier has undoubtedly increased his value during his short tenure with the Canucks and could be used to recoup more assets whilst also saving cap space. He is in the last year of his contract with an average annual value of 4.15 million, so the Canucks have until the trade deadline to decide what to do with Beauvillier.
You never go broke taking a profit and the Canucks have certainly made a profit on the Beauvillier acquisition.
Aatu Raty at only 20 years of age, was the youngest asset acquired and filled an important need at Center with the departure of Horvat. With the Islanders organization, he played 12 games in the NHL notching 2 points and played another 27 games in the AHL notching 15 points. With the Canucks organization he played only 3 games at the NHL level producing 1 point and played 25 games for Abbotsford scoring 12 points.
In the early going Raty has neither increased nor decreased his value and next season will be a pivotable one as he should get a long look in training camp to see if he can play in a bottom-six role. In all likelihood, he will play big minutes down in Abbotsford hopefully receiving plenty of powerplay and penalty-killing time.
Raty is one of the Canucks best prospects but is far from a lock to be an everyday NHL player which says more about the lack of high-end talent in the Canucks prospect pool than it does about Raty.
The Canucks have made many questionable and surprising moves over the past 5 seasons, but few trades have garnered such visceral reactions as the Hronek acquisition. While Hronek is far from the worst acquisition from a pure talent perspective the enormous cost associated with his acquisition puts added expectations on him. It is hard to judge him adequately as he has only played 4 games for the Canucks but giving up the 17th and 43rd overall picks in what is slated to be one of the deepest drafts in decades is just a hard pill to swallow. No one questions Hronek’s ability/upside, but rather the team’s competitive cycle and whether the Canucks are ready to truly compete for the ultimate prize.
The reality is that Hronek is the exact player fans and pundits have clamoured for, for years, but depending on how picks 17 and 43 turn out this trade could look extremely foolish. This piece of the Horvat trade tree is the most incomplete and has the greatest potential to be a big winner or loser.
The Horvat trade saga is far from over and will undoubtedly continue to morph and change for years to come. As it stands currently, Canucks received 3 legitimate NHL assets who are all 25 and younger signalling that they believe their window to win is open now. A lot is riding on next season and I believe that if the Canucks do not make the playoffs we will see continued changes to the core, namely Pettersson and Demko...