Never count the Vegas Golden Knights out when it comes to acquiring the big fish on the NHL trade or free agency market. They have done it with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Robin Lehner, and Alex Pietrangelo. And they could be at it again with Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
Bo Horvat Overview
Bo Horvat is almost certainly getting traded this season. The 27-year-old center is in the final year of a six-year $5.5 million AAV contract. Despite the Canucks struggles, he is tied for fourth in the NHL in goals with 21 this season. It's safe to say that several teams are interested in Horvat's services.
The New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, and New York Rangers are frontrunner candidates to land Horvat. But don't forget about the VGK.
For Horvat, he is trying to block out the trade rumors, even though they are wildly present. "I am focused on this season and playing for the Vancouver Canucks, helping the team in any way I can. I will not have any further comments this year about my future," said Horvat in an official statement.
Golden Knights Case
Two things severely decrease the likelihood of Las Vegas being the landing point for Horvat.
They are 1) cap space and 2) that the Golden Knights and Canucks are in the same division. The Golden Knights and Canucks have played twice this season, with each team winning once. They play their final game of the season on March 21, 2023.
Despite their struggles, the Canucks are somehow just three points out of a playoff spot. Even if they trade Horvat at the deadline, they could make a push for the playoffs, similar to how they did last season. Having Horvat on a Division Rival wouldn't be ideal for the Canucks.
Managing the Cap
With Shea Weber, Nolan Patrick, Robin Lehner, Brett Howden, and Zach Whitecloud all on LTIR, Laurent Brossoit in the AHL, and Alex Pietrangelo unavailable, the Golden Knights have roughly $3.4 million in cap space right now. Howden could return as soon as next game, Whitecloud is out month-to-month, and Weber, Patrick, and Lehner have all been ruled out for the season. Pietrangelo is out indefinitely.
The Golden Knights freed up a contract spot on Nov. 30 by trading Zack Hayes to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations.
If he decides to go after Horvat, general manager Kelly McCrimmon will have to know the statuses of Pietrangelo, Whitecloud, and Howden. He would also likely have to trade out the contract of Laurent Brossoit. With Thatcher Demko out for the Canucks, Brossoit could be a valuable addition for them.
Given that he is in the midst of a contract year, Horvat will likely be a pure rental for the Golden Knights.
Now comes the part where we look at what the Golden Knights could give up in a trade to get Horvat. And considering the VGK's tendencies to trade away picks and prospects for win-now talent, this is the least-fun part when projecting Golden Knights trades.
Horvat is an elite scorer, and with his name on the trade market, a lot of teams will be interested, meaning bidding wars will likely ensue.
Brossoit is a good start, given cap space and the Canucks goaltending injuries, but I would think the VGK would have to add at least two solid prospects along with a 2023 first-round pick to get the deal done.
My money is on former first-round pick forwards Brendan Brisson or Zach Dean, as well as Lukas Cormier.
This then gets us to the prospect paradox conversation, as the Golden Knights are lacking NHL-ready prospects to fill out-their bottom six. But to get a better bottom six, they have to continue to trade out prospects who could develop into stars in the future.
VHN's Proposal: Brossoit, Brisson, Cormier, and a 2023 first round-pick for Horvat with $2,250,000 retained. (Horvat comes in at $3,250,000)
VGK With BH53
Trading away more prospects and a pick in what is expected to be a good draft might be worth it for Horvat, though.
He would give the Golden Knights a stupid good 1-4 center depth with Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Bo Horvat, and Nicolas Roy.
One of the Golden Knight's biggest issues this season has been their lack of a consistent third line. Michael Amadio, Paul Cotter, Brett Howden, Phil Kessel, and Jake Leshychyn simply aren't cutting it. But this projected lineup would certainly be a tad bit better.
Potential Golden Knights Lineup With Horvat
Chandler Stephenson- Jack Eichel- Mark Stone
Reilly Smith- William Karlsson- Jonathan Marchessault
Paul Cotter- Bo Horvat- Phil Kessel
Will Carrier- Nicolas Roy- Keegan Kolesar