Rick Dhaliwal reported the Seattle Kraken is a team that has been consistent in the pursuit of Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat. The 27-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and most reports indicate he is on his way out. President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said he believes the Canucks have taken their best shot at extending the forward.
“The contract we have on the table for Bo right now is fair value for what he’s done up to this year,” Rutherford said. “It’s certainly under market value for what he’s done this year so we’re in a pickle here. He’s had a career year, and he’s looking for his money. He deserves it. I don’t blame him.
“Even with what we have on the table for him now without any changes … we’re well over the cap on projections. There are ways of moving money around but the fact of the matter is it’s always a tough fit.”
Rutherford also revealed what the Canucks are looking for in return. The organization wants to add young players that haven’t made an impact on their entry-level contracts and bring them in for a second chance. However, the team will still look to add draft picks as well. The Kraken has a few pieces the Canucks could be interested in for Horvat.
Rutherford drafted Daniel Sprong when he was the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015 with the 46th overall pick in the second round. He also traded Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks for Marcus Pettersson in 2018. The winger joined the Washington Capitals in a trade before finally being sent to Seattle before the 2022 Trade Deadline.
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Sprong is starting to see success in his seventh season. He has scored a career-high in goals (15) and points (28) in 37 games this season. He has 61 goals and 98 points in 239 games in his career. At 25 years old, Sprong is a full-time NHLer and would provide the Canucks with scoring from the wing. Despite putting up career numbers with Seattle, he is averaging 11:18 in time on ice this season. He will likely see a spike in his numbers if he joins the Canucks in an increased role.
Cale Fleury fits a few wants for the Canucks. The 24 years old is exactly within the age range the organization is interested in. Additionally, he’s in his third NHL season, but on his third NHL contract and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. Lastly, the Canucks want to add a young NHL right-shot defenceman which Fleury is.
The 2017 third-round pick has played 56 NHL games throughout his three years in the league. Originally a Montreal Canadien draft pick, Seattle claimed Fleury in their expansion draft. Since joining the team, he has failed to crack the lineup, playing nine games last season and six this season. Meanwhile, he played 58 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Charlotte Checker, scoring seven goals and posting 33 points last season.
Adding Fleury would fill a position of need for the Canucks as a right-shot defender. Joining the organization will give him a second opportunity to show he can have similar success in the NHL as he has in the AHL since he will likely crack the Canucks main roster.
2023 First-Round Pick
The Kraken should be willing to give up their first-round pick in a deal for Horvat. They are top-10 in league standings with a 26-14-4 record, and giving up a late first-rounder to add a player like Horvat for their playoff run and potentially their future is worth it.
The 2023 Draft Class is highlighted by Connor Bedard but has talent until the end of the second round. The Canucks will likely be able to add two top prospects to their poor prospect pool this year.
Canucks Limiting Themselves
Rutherford and the Canucks are limiting themselves by targeting NHL players in their 20s. The Kraken are one of the more interested teams in the forward but don’t have the pieces that will return the same value in a trade for Horvat. Therefore, the organization should target prospects instead and give up on retooling their club. The Canucks have the trade pieces to add draft picks and young prospects, which allows them to rebuild their roster.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.