The New York Islanders have made the first big splash of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring centre Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Räty, and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick (if the Isles pick is 12th overall or higher, it moves to the 2024 NHL Draft).
It’s a fascinating, daring move by the Islanders, who sit outside of the playoff picture looking in as of this writing, with 55 points to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 57 points, good for the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand.
The message is clear from their perspective: It’s playoffs or bust.
It’s a calculated bet, though. They won’t need to fear the prospect of losing even a fool’s hope of a shot at Connor Bedard in Nashville this June should their season go sideways. You know, the whole Florida Panthers, Ben Chiarot deal, and so on.
Horvat, 27, is a pending unrestricted free agent, on pace for a record 90 points, his 31 goals as of this writing the eighth-most in the NHL this season. He’s in the final year of a deal that carries a $5.5-million cap charge annually, and due for a substantial raise.
Perhaps he’s the key to getting out of the NHL’s squishy middle ground and going on a serious run to the playoffs for the Islanders.
It will, of course, be interesting to see if they sign Horvat to an extension. Can they even make such a move work?
For the Canucks, it’s a trade that’s aligned with the reality of their short-term outlook, if nothing else. They sit 27th in the NHL as of this writing, and though Beauvillier (9-11–40 in 49 games) isn’t necessarily a future, he’s also not the centrepiece of this trade.
That would be Räty, our 70th-ranked affiliated skater prospect coming into the season and the second-ranked prospect in the Isles system. Adding an additional first-round pick to the war chest after a three-year run in which they’d only made one such selection isn’t bad either.
It will no doubt be difficult for Canucks fans to see Horvat in a different uniform after he spent parts of 10 seasons in the organization, many of them as the team’s captain, but this move is probably for the best for everyone involved.
Save perhaps the New York Islanders. The jury’s still out on them.