On Monday, Rick Dhaliwal reported the Vancouver Canucks are interested in New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere. Dhaliwal adds the organization knows the forward inside out, as his old agent, Emilie Castonguay, is the current assistant general manager for the club.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant made the forward a healthy scratch for the team’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning last week. The 2020 first-overall pick’s NHL career hasn’t started as expected. However, Dhaliwal adds trading for Lafreniere will not be cheap, but the Canucks have the assets to make a deal happen.
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The Canucks are looking to add players in their early 20s, and at 21 years old, Lafreniere is the type of player the Canucks’ new regime is interested in. Meanwhile, the Rangers can use one of the three players the Canucks can offer in a trade package for the 21-year-old. The Rangers are a club looking to make another deep playoff run, and one of the three players Vancouver could offer will help make that run possible.
Bo Horvat is the most obvious choice for a trade with the Rangers. The Canucks captain is having a career season, which has made it difficult for the organization to re-sign him. He has 26 goals and 40 points in 36 games this season, which puts him on pace to finish with 59 goals and 91 points in 82 games. A trade involving Horvat is now more likely and should happen before the March 3rd trade deadline.
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Additionally, he is a top-line centre, which would allow the Rangers to boost their top six, giving the team a one-two punch of Mika Zibanejad and Horvat up the middle. He is also the perfect player for a deep playoff run. It is obvious Horvat isn’t happy with the lack of playoff appearances during his time with the Canucks, and a trade to the Rangers will allow him to play for the Stanley Cup once again.
“We’ve got to go do it now. There’s no more excuses,” Horvat said in October before the start of the regular season. “It was promising what we did last year, having so many meaningful games and winning a lot of them. It was a step in the right direction. But, at the same time, us not making the playoffs isn’t good enough. And we can’t just be satisfied with almost.”
After 36 games, the Canucks are seven points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with a 16-17-3 record. According to MoneyPuck, the Canucks have a 3.8% chance of making it to the postseason. Therefore, the organization should be willing to make a move anytime soon. As for Horvat, he has two playoff appearances in his nine NHL seasons, with his second being the most impressive. He led the team with 10 goals in 17 games during the 2020 NHL Playoffs.
A one-for-one trade would not work unless the Canucks retain some of Horvat’s salary, as he only has one year remaining on his contract. If the Canucks retain some of Horvat’s salary, an additional draft pick returning to Vancouver should be expected. Otherwise, an additional young player, such as Filip Chytil, could be added to the deal instead.
The Canucks gave Brock Boeser’s agent, Ben Hankinson, permission to talk directly with teams to find a trade partner for the forward earlier last month. Boeser is another player the Canucks could centre a trade around for Lafreniere. The Rangers would get Boeser for three potential playoff runs with two additional years remaining on his contract following this season.
Boeser is off to a rough start this season, scoring six goals in 28 games. The forward has struggled to take the next step in his game. However, he is a consistent 20-goal scorer with the potential to surpass the 30-goal mark. Boeser needs a change of scenery, and New York could be the place he reaches his potential.
Trading Boeser for Lafreniere one for one will be a difficult deal to complete, compared to trading Horvat for the young forward. Boeser has a cap hit of $6.650 million, and since the Canucks aren’t interested in retaining his salary, the Rangers will have to add an additional contract in the trade. They could add Chytil to the deal, but Boeser also doesn’t carry the same value as Horvat, therefore, the trade would be a little more complicated to make. The Canucks will have to balance the deal by sending an additional draft pick or a prospect.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Elias Pettersson is the Canucks only known untouchable, while trading for Quinn Hughes will take a mammoth offer. Therefore, the organization is likely open to moving J.T. Miller despite extending him for seven years with an average annual value of $8 million. The Rangers were one of the teams interested in acquiring Miller before he signed the extension.
The former Rangers first-round pick is coming off a career year as he scored 32 goals and 99 points in 80 games last season. So far, he is off to a disappointing start with 13 goals and 30 points in 36 games. As a result, his value has dropped from last season. Therefore, if the Canucks were to offer him in a deal for Lafreniere, not only will they have to add in a sweetener, but they’ll have to take on an additional contract to match Miller’s salary.
Although a majority of Canucks fans will love to see Miller traded, it is unlikely the organization will be able to move him for Lafreniere. The club signed Miller to a long-term contract, which seems like a mistake before it even affects their salary cap.
Horvat Best Trade Piece for Lafreniere
Although the Canucks are looking to trade Boeser, and Miller should be another trade chip for the club, Horvat is the best option to acquire Lafreniere in a trade with the Rangers. His value is high, while Lafreniere’s value is at the lowest in his career. Both teams would benefit as Horvat would help the Rangers immediately as a playoff performer and a top-line centre. Meanwhile, the Canucks are looking to add forwards in their 20s as they are re-tooling. A deal around Horvat and Lafreniere is possible and could happen leading up to the trade deadline.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.