One hopes that, by now, Bo Horvat has gotten used to being the centre of attention in Vancouver.
On Sunday afternoon, Horvat notched his 29th goal on the season in a losing effort to the Winnipeg Jets, bringing him into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for fourth in league scoring and gaining him plenty of notice.
The night prior, however, was perhaps more notable, in that the Canucks weren’t even playing, and yet still discussion of Horvat’s trade value made up much of the Hockey Night in Canada intermission chatter.
In specific, Elliotte Friedman speculated on Horvat’s potential future destinations, throwing out one team in particular that hadn’t been mentioned in serious circles as of yet: the Seattle Kraken.
For fans of both the Canucks and Kraken, it’s a surprising report; if it is indeed a report and not just an idle thought on Friedman’s part.
Seattle supporters might not believe that their team is quite ready for such a major acquisition. Vancouver fans, on the other hand, might blanche at the notion of trading their long-time captain just three hours down the road to their geographic rivals.
It seems fair to say that, were a trade to go down, the Kraken would have to pay some level of rivalry tax, going over and above on the return in order to seal the deal. But as a franchise that has only existed for two seasons, do they even have what it takes to make a compelling offer for Horvat?
What can the Seattle Kraken offer for Bo Horvat?
Enough accrued cap space to not send back a cap dump
It might not be the first thing one notices when looking around another team’s roster for a potential trade return, but perhaps the most important thing that the Seattle Kraken can offer up for Horvat is an abundance of cap space, now and in the future.
As of this writing, the Kraken have accrued more than $5 million in Trade Deadline cap space. Given that Horvat would be taking someone else’s place on the roster and carries a $5.5 million cap hit himself, that means that Seattle already has enough space to accommodate his full salary without the need for retention or to send back any cap dump.
For a Canucks team that will still presumably be looking to cut cap even after dealing Horvat, that’s huge.
The Kraken do have plenty of money committed beyond this year, but no huge contracts on the books as of yet. A few expiring UFA deals will give them ample room to re-sign Horvat if that’s what they want to do, which further allows the Canucks to jack up the asking price.
Shane Wright? (Probably not)
Now, as soon as Friedman mentioned Horvat and the Kraken, the name on everyone’s lips was Shane Wright.
That’s only natural, given that most of the country just watched Wright captain the Canadian World Juniors squad en route to a Gold Medal victory. But the odds of who many expected to be the most recent first overall draft selection — we’re being told now he ended up going fourth — being a part of the return for Horvat are so slim, they barely merit mentioning.
Players and draft picks of Wright’s ilk just simply do not get traded very often, if at all. They certainly don’t get traded for rentals, and even with an extension attached, Horvat’s ongoing and future value still doesn’t match up with Wright’s massive potential.
Any team would hesitate to offer up Wright’s services, but that’s doubly true for Seattle, who have only had two drafts with which to stock their prospect cupboard. That makes Wright even more valuable to them than he would be to another team, and takes him firmly off the table.
Even without Wright, the Kraken are able to put together a fairly compelling package, and that starts — as do most realistic offers for Horvat — with a 2023 first round pick.
We’ve spoken plenty here about the hype surrounding the 2023 Draft and why the Canucks absolutely need to acquire another first rounder if and when they deal Horvat.
As of now, Seattle is in a playoff position and at 12th overall in the league, putting their pick somewhere in the range of the late-teens to early-20s. Such a pick would have value any year, but especially so in 2023. This pick more or less needs to be part of the deal, or there’s no deal to be had.
Several 2023 seconds and future picks
If everyone can be expected to toss a 2023 first round pick on the table for Horvat, then obviously teams will need to go over and above that offer in order to actually land his services, and that probably goes double for the Seattle Kraken.
Fortunately, they’ve got picks to burn. While they’ll still want to hold on to as many as possible to keep filling that aforementioned cupboard, the Kraken are already up to three 2023 second rounders and maintain their full complement of future selections.
If an extra second or third or both are required in order to get a trade across the finish line, the Kraken can definitely provide it. And in a draft as loaded as 2023, a second round pick could be as valuable as a first in most years.
While the Kraken prospects aren’t big in number, they do still have a handful of intriguing names that could be made available, and that list probably starts with Jagger Firkus.
The 18-year-old and undersized winger with the Star Wars name was slated by many to be a first round selection in 2022, but slipped to the Kraken in the second round.
Now, he’s one of the leading scorers in the WHL for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
He doesn’t fill a position of need for the Canucks, but they need quality prospects at every position.
The Canucks’ need for right-handed defenders is, to say the least, an ongoing concern. The Kraken don’t have any blue-chippers at the position, but they do have an enormous RHD prospect with some upside in Ville Ottavainen.
A fourth round selection in 2021, Ottavainen stands at 6’5”, 210 pounds and is known for his no-nonsense defensive play and physicality. With that said, he certainly offers up something that the Canucks don’t currently have in their system.
Somewhat at the opposite end of the RHD spectrum is Ty Nelson. He’s got more talent and potential than Ottavainen, having been the 68th overall pick in this last draft, but stands seven inches shorter and plays a much more offensively-oriented game.
Still, the skill is undeniable, and Nelson looks ready to make his pro debut as soon as next season. At this point, the Canucks can’t afford to turn down any players with a future at this position.
Heck, let’s amend that to say that the Canucks can’t afford to turn down future talent at any position, especially not on the blue line. Aside from Wright and Firkus, Ryker Evans is probably the Kraken’s next-best prospect. An average-sized and well-rounded LHD, Evans was an early second round pick in 2021 and is already up to 20 points in 31 games as an AHL rookie.
He’s got value to virtually any team, and that includes the Canucks.
There’s really not much on the Kraken roster that they’d both be willing to give up and that the Canucks would be interested in acquiring. But if there’s one name that makes some sense, it’s Morgan Geekie.
The 24-year-old centre only has 14 points on the season and has often been relegated to the Kraken’s fourth line, but the underlying stats also say that he’s been one of their most productive players at 5v5. A 6’2”, right-handed pivot, Geekie would at least offer something that the Canucks don’t already have on hand, and could do a passable job of replacing Horvat in the lineup for the short-term — while still being young enough to have some potential as a long-term fixture.
And with Horvat in the mix, Geekie might even find himself a healthy scratch, which should make him all the more available.
Is there a deal to be made?
That all depends on how willing the Canucks are to actually deal Horvat to their geographic rival.
Surely, they would prefer not to, and surely there will be other teams available to make compelling offers of their own.
It’s reasonable to expect that the price will be at least slightly higher for Seattle than it will be for other teams.
What does that look like?
Is it a 2023 first round pick, a 2023 second round pick, and a prospect like Firkus?
Is it even more?
And at what point do the Kraken say, “you know what, we’re too new for this,” and walk away from the table?
It should make for some delicate negotiating, and we’d have to say that the odds are definitely against this particular trade going down…but that doesn’t mean that the pieces aren’t in place in both teams are willing to make it work.