Maple Leafs & Canucks Could Provide In-Season Blockbuster Deal

Earlier this week, former Toronto Maple Leaf and current media personality Mike Johnson threw out the idea of the Leafs trading for Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat. Now, this is something I could get behind and I agree with Johnson; Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas should inquire on Horvat’s services.

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The Canucks captain is a pending free agent who hasn’t had much for contract negotiations to stick around Vancouver. Horvat’s enjoying a career season, scoring 20 goals in 27 games so far this season. Even if the Canucks are within striking distance on a playoff spot, it’s likely they trade Horvat if he isn’t signed to an extension by the March 3 trade deadline. The Maple Leafs should totally be in the mix if the Canucks’ leader is indeed available.

Maple Leafs Have Assets to Make a Splash

Toronto is stocked with prospect capital and their first-round picks for the foreseeable future, so there’s certainly some assets at Dubas’ disposal. While he’s swung and missed in the past with the likes of trading for Nick Foligno, don’t expect to see the Leafs’ GM become gun shy this season.

Pontus Holmberg Toronto Maple Leafs
Pontus Holmberg, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If a deal does go down between the Canucks and Maple Leafs, look for Dubas to send Pontus Holmberg with one of Fraser Minten, Ty Voit, or Alex Steeves in the deal and if he can pull off the trade without giving up one of Matthew Knies or Topi Niemela it should be considered a huge win. Yes, it’s likely going to take at least one first-round draft pick to get the Canucks attention.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2022-23 Trade Targets: Edmonton Oilers

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Holmberg makes a ton of sense as the young center has been great for the Maple Leafs in the 13 games he’s appeared in with the big club. At 23 years old he could certainly appeal to the Canucks who could use Holmberg as the team’s third-line center for foreseeable future.

Maple Leafs Need Help Up Front

Dubas needs to be aggressive this season and land an impact player for the team’s forward group. Secondary scoring is an issue and so is the team’s second power-play unit which sometimes features both Alexander Kerfoot and Pierre Engvall. Horvat is the type of player you swing for the fences for. He’s capable of playing in all situations, he’s a 200-foot player and he’s the the type of talent who can push a team over the hump.

Bo Horvat Vancouver Canucks
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Toronto has surprised many with their strong goaltending and defensive play, even though injuries have been stock piling like crazy. The Maple Leafs sit third in the entire NHL when it comes to goals against per game. Their trade focus as we creep closer to the March 3 deadline should be locked on finding help up front, which is why I’m with Johnson on this one — Horvat should be a prime target.

Canucks Seem Lost and Dubas Needs to Take Advantage

After re-signing J.T. Miller last offseason, the Canucks have been all over the headlines this season for all the wrong reasons. The team has had issues holding onto leads, they have a lame-duck head coach in Bruce Boudreau, who isn’t expected back next season, and there’s been a ton of trade speculation brewing with not only Horvat but also Brock Boeser.

Vancouver Canucks forwards Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat
Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat celebrate a goal (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Boeser would look lovely in a Maple Leafs uniform, Horvat is the better fit as he could slide in perfectly on the team’s third line and also move up from time to time to play some minutes on the wing with John Tavares and former junior teammate Mitch Marner. The two spent one season together with the London Knights and likely could find chemistry together early and often.

Vancouver’s management appear lost. They have a core that is in the prime of their careers and instead of trading Horvat and Boeser, the team should be trying to ship out their overpriced defensemen who are taking up way too much of their salary cap. However, if they are going to continue to try and find trade partners for their talented forwards, the Maple Leafs need to take advantage and oblige to their asking price for their captain.

The Maple Leafs are going all in this season, and rightfully so, as they are one of the best teams in the NHL. When it comes to trade targets, Horvat of the Canucks should be near the top of the Leafs’ list. He’d fit in seamlessly with Toronto’s forwards and would make a huge impact in many different elements of their game. Dubas has enough in the cupboards to get other GM’s to bite on a trade and it’s time to get off his wallet and spend some of his prospect capital to land another impact player.

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