The New York Islanders got the trade frenzy started on Jan. 30th when general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello made the blockbuster deal to land the 27-year-old Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks. The Islanders were struggling at the time of the trade, and Lamoriello shook the tree by dealing one of the fan favorites in Anthony Beauvillier. The big concern at the time of the deal was whether Horvat would sign an extension with the Islanders, but that didn’t take long to happen. The center agreed to an eight-year extension with the Islanders just a week after the deal.
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“It’s a relief to be honest with you,” Horvat said. “It’s been a mental grind of a year, to say the least. To finally walk in and kinda be set up somewhere, the not knowing was the thing that was hindering me and my family the most. So to be locked in here for eight years is special to me. It’s special to my family.” (from ‘Islanders sign new star Bo Horvat to $68 million contract extension,’ New York Post, 2/5/23). It’s been special for Islanders fans to watch Horvat as well. He’s been a key contributor in their recent playoff surge, and with the unexpected injury to forward Mat Barzal; the trade was even more necessary.
All Around Player
It’s clear that since the trade the Islanders are a better team. They have a record of 8-3-3 since, and that is even without Barzal or Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has also been out a few weeks with a nagging injury. With the Islanders down two of their top centers, Horvat has had to pick up a lot of the slack. Not only has he contributed offensively, but he is also one of the league’s best faceoff men. According to Islanders beat writer Kevin Kurz, since the trade Horvat has a success rate in the circle of 57.6%, which is 12th in the league. (from ‘The Islanders are surging. Here are 3 areas where stats reveal why,’ the Athletic, 3/8/23)
He’s provided a spark to the lineup that they desperately needed. Before the injury to Barzal, the pair started developing some real chemistry together and will most likely stick together for the next few years on the same line. The Islanders like to play a conservative style of hockey, emphasizing playing responsibly away from the puck, and that is the type of player Horvat always has been. With the injury to Pageau, Horvat has even spent some time on the penalty kill in his absence. Islanders’ head coach Lane Lambert has many different roles he can use Horvat in. Since being drafted by the Canucks, he has grown into a very reliable center, who is known to drive the play.
High Character Player
It is certainly no secret that Lamoriello has always coveted the type of player Horvat is. He has the reputation of being a leader and having high character. He was the captain of the Canucks for the past eight seasons for a reason and is beloved by fans. There is no doubt watching the way Horvat carries himself on the ice, and even off, you can see why he has that reputation.
“I’m pleased that we’ve got a player of this caliber, who brings it every night, is a 200-foot player, and there’s no question he’ll be an asset to our team,” Lamoriello said of Horvat. It’s still very early to decide if the Islanders won the trade yet but so far, so good. They were able to sign Horvat long-term; and the Islanders are back in a playoff position, even with some key injuries. The return on Lamoriello’s investment is off to a good start.
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Not only has Horvat elevated his own play since the trade, but the entire team as a whole has improved. They have increased their goals per game to 3.07 during that time span and are playing more structured defensively. They took a big step forward Tuesday night with a win over the Buffalo Sabres, who are chasing them for that wild card spot. The big test comes up tonight as they face the other team who owns the East wild card spot, the Pittsburgh Penguins.