Oilers Could Seriously Use the Canucks’ Bo Horvat

The Vancouver Canucks aren’t as bad as they were at the start of the season, but they are still not a playoff team. They have fought their way back to sniffing distance from a top-eight spot in the Western Conference but still sit three points out with a couple of extra games played. The Canucks are sure to be sellers at the trade deadline after the way they started the season and the hole they dug for themselves.

The Edmonton Oilers sit in seventh place in the west and have been playing much better despite the many injuries to their forwards right now. They should be a playoff team, considering expectations set them up to be Stanley Cup contenders. Though they haven’t played like it on most nights, elite play by the team has shined through on occasion.

Even with a fully healthy squad, the Oilers’ forward depth hasn’t been producing. The team’s top players can only be counted on so much, even if the team has the two best forwards in the NHL, which brings us to the most impactful trade target the Oilers should aim for from the Canucks: Bo Horvat.

Horvat Won’t Be a Canuck Next Season

The Canucks are long overdue for a full rebuild. They rushed their first attempt, and now they are in limbo, getting mid-round picks and failing to be good enough to reach the playoffs. They have two untouchables in Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, but everyone else should be up for grabs.

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

Horvat has been the topic of trade conversation all season. His cap hit will make him easier to move than other high-end players, and he is having a career year. The Canucks don’t necessarily have the cap space to negotiate a contract extension that includes a much-deserved pay raise. That, along with Vancouver’s record and overall play, will force the team to trade him at some point this season.

They can wait until the deadline to see if the team has drastically turned their season around, or they can sell earlier to teams in need, the Oilers being one of them. Waiting may cause the Canucks to lose Horvat for nothing if they are within striking distance of a playoff spot, and it’s unlikely the captain will return next season.

Why the Oilers Need to Make a Big Move

As Horvat is in the last year of his deal, at $5.5 million AAV, his elite play and cap hit should make a trade with the Oilers possible. Edmonton is right up against the cap when everyone is healthy, but everyone is not healthy right now. They are really digging into their organizational depth, and it is proving tougher to dominate games. Their top players are always relied upon to provide offence, but right now, there is even more pressure.

Related: Oilers Aren’t Wasting McDavid’s Career Like Many Believe

The gap between the top four forwards and the rest of the lineup is astonishing. Connor McDavid has 43 points, Leon Draisaitl has 38, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 25, and Zach Hyman has 24. The next highest point-getter is Jesse Puljujarvi, with six. Ryan McLeod has eight points, but he is on the injured reserve list, while Evander Kane is out for a few more months after starting the season strong. To put it into perspective, every forward outside of McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Hyman has a combined 17 goals and 48 points. McDavid alone has 19 goals.

Four players cannot be counted on to provide all the offence for the roster, which is why the team has a 13-11-0 record. After the Oilers finally took that step forward, it won’t be great if they take a step back this season. The next step should be the Stanley Cup, and a few players on the team deserve it.

What Would Go Into a Horvat Trade & How It Would Greatly Benefit the Oilers

To get to that next level, the Oilers will need a big addition as well as better team defence and goaltending. If the Canucks are willing to listen, Horvat is the perfect trade target. He is a natural centre, which allows the Oilers to either load up the top-six or spread out the scoring and run three lines.

Using Horvat as the second-line centre would allow Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins to shift over to the wing where they are equally or even more effective. It would also allow McDavid and Draisaitl to play on the same line regularly since they have hardly seen five-on-five time together outside of the last few games. Nugent-Hopkins has never been great in the faceoff circle, and the most productive years of his career came when he was on McDavid or Draisaitl’s wing. Flanking Horvat wouldn’t be a huge downgrade, given how well he is playing this season – 17 goals and 24 points in 24 games – and he would mesh well with the play style of Nugent-Hopkins.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The other option is to have McDavid, Draisaitl, and Horvat or McDavid, Horvat, and Nugent-Hopkins as the top three centres in the lineup. That won’t load up the top-six as much as it could be, but players like Warren Foegele have proven to be effective if they are playing in a top-six role. It would also allow for many more line combinations and a scoring threat on the ice more often.

So, what will be the Canucks’ asking price for Horvat? For cap reasons, they would have to retain 40-50 percent of his $5.5 million salary and take Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto back in return. Puljujarvi has been ineffective in the scoring department this season and for about the last 82 games. He has had ample opportunities in the top-six and still can’t finish. He is turning into a third-line player, at best, but could really benefit from a change in scenery.

Yamamoto spent almost the entire season (13 games) in the top-six before getting injured, and he has three assists to show for it. Both have potential and are young, something the Canucks could be interested in. This is a way for the Oilers to close the book on at least one of those very inconsistent wingers and open up room moving forward.

Considering Horvat would be a rental, the other requirement would have to be a first-round pick or prospect. I would give up the first-round pick in this case since the Oilers’ prospects are closer to helping out the team, and an addition like Horvat is well worth that cost.

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