The New York Islanders are having a great season but will look to make a move in the upcoming months. They are in win-now mode but losing ground in a competitive Metropolitan Division, with the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Rangers all passing them in the standings. The Islanders have a respectable 18-13-2 record, but if they fail to upgrade the roster, they might miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.
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On the other hand, the Vancouver Canucks are a team to watch at the trade deadline. They have a 13-15-3 record and have looked promising offensively, averaging 3.29 goals per game. However, they are in sixth place in the division with poor defensive play and goaltending, which has cost them throughout the season. So, in what direction are the Canucks headed? Will they aggressively try to add to their roster, or will they re-tool or even rebuild by trading away a handful of valuable players?
The Islanders can pursue two Canucks: Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, two of the best forwards on the team who aren’t on long-term deals. Many fans would understandably want the Islanders to acquire Horvat, the captain, who is having a better season with 22 goals and nine assists. However, they should pursue Boeser, who not only fits the roster but could be the missing piece for a playoff run.
Boeser’s Contract & Age
Boeser (25) is younger than Horvat with more years of control; he signed a three-year contract this offseason worth $6.6 million per year. If the Islanders can acquire him, they would have a young, integral forward in their lineup for the next three years.
Horvat, at 27 years old, is only two years older than Boeser and is also in the prime of his career. His contract is worth $5.5 million per year, making him a cheaper option for this season; however, he is in the final year of his six-year contract, making him a rental addition. If the Islanders acquire and subsequently extend him, they will have another player taking up significant cap space, which will hurt the roster’s depth.
Boeser a Pass-First Player
The Islanders’ biggest need, especially in the forward unit, is a puck distributor. They have the goal scorers with Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Zach Parise combining for 35 goals, but they need a skater who can find them in the offensive zone and create scoring opportunities. Granted, Mathew Barzal is having a great season as a pass-first player, with 27 assists, and Josh Bailey has been a distributor throughout his career. However, the team needs another top-six forward who can play the role, especially with Bailey’s decline into a reduced role, averaging less ice time in each of the last two seasons.
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Horvat is one of the best on the Canucks’ roster. However, aside from being a center where the Islanders have a surplus of talent, he won’t fill the offensive void. In his career, Horvat has 192 goals and 205 assists and has both created scoring chances and proven he can find the back of the net himself, but he has shifted to a scorers mentality in recent seasons. Last year, he scored 31 goals and 21 assists, and in the last two seasons, he’s combined for 53 goals and only 30 assists. Moreover, he’s made a more concerted effort to become a goal scorer, taking on a shooting role but also playing in the slot and skating to the net to find scoring chances. The Islanders adding him to the roster would be an upgrade but an unnecessary one that wouldn’t round out the forward unit.
Boeser is having a rocky season; he was almost a healthy scratch on Dec. 3. However, along with being a promising player, he would be a good passer on the wing for the Islanders’ offense. While he only has four goals this season, he’s added 12 assists to the Canucks’ top six, allowing other skaters to find open shots. Boeser could play alongside Nelson and Lee on the top line and provide scoring chances for both of them. Likewise, he could play on the Barzal-led line, putting two pass-first players together allowing both to find open shots near the net.
Islanders Possible Return for Both Players
Horvat is a rental, but with a more reliable track record, he will likely require a bigger return in a trade than Boeser. The Canucks are looking for defense and center depth, and if they are looking to re-tool their roster, they will ask for young NHL-level players. As a result, they would likely be looking at defensemen Robin Salo and Grant Hutton or center Aatu Raty, the top prospect in the Islanders’ system. New York wouldn’t need to send a big haul for Boeser, but to acquire Horvat, they would likely need to move two or more players in a deal.
The Islanders are looking to win the Stanley Cup and remain competitive in the Eastern Conference, and a move might be necessary for the team to keep up with the rest of their division. Adding Boeser could put them over the top. He has struggled and wouldn’t be a splash addition like Patrick Kane, but he would be a valuable addition to an already talented roster.